Students from the cities, inhabitants of the fields

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[MAGAZINE PÈLERIN] Offering housing on the farm for students: the idea originated in the minds of three farmers in Pas-de-Calais twenty-three years ago. Since then, Green Campus has expanded. Today there are 800 to live on a farm.

Article published in Pilgrim # 7095

Sun rays illuminate the pile of freshly harvested beets. A few meters away, the tractor sows wheat. The landscape of late afternoon is far, far from the student campus. However, it is here, at La Couture (Pas-de-Calais), on the farm of Frédéric and Isabelle Desmedt, that every year, students put their bags during their schooling.

The story of this cohabitation, or rather this meeting, begins in 2010. At the time, the couple decided to turn a former potato sprouter into flats. in 2015, he renewed the operation by restoring the stables. "Like all the farms in the area, we had unusable buildings in the state. It seemed important to us to maintain this family patrimony »says Frédéric Desmedt.

The charms of calm and green

In this sector, several farmers are trying to rent student flats. 3 km from the farm Desmedt, Didier and Claudine Durlin have just completed the work of a fifth duplex in one of the buildings of their farm. Carefully furnished, these accommodations of 26 m2 at 41 m2 are already all rented.

The two couples were helped by the association Campus Vert. Founded in 1995 by three farmers in the Béthune region, this network aims to connect operators who wish to enhance their buildings and students looking for low-rent housing.

With Parcoursup, students have a little more trouble finding accommodation

Today present in the Hauts-de-France, Île-de-France and Brittany, the association offers housing within a radius of 15 to 20 minutes by car around cities where schools, universities and businesses.

All this in a soothing, conducive to concentration. "There are fewer temptations to go out, even if Bethune is not far away"says Jean-Manuel Moreno, 36, a tenant at Les Desmedt and student in conversion at Merville Aviation School, ÉPAG-NG. "Having lived in Paris, I enjoy living in the countryside. I do not feel like in a room at the inhabitant, I am independent "he continues.

After experiencing urban student life, 25-year-old Theo Jollain, a future airplane pilot, also discovered the charms of calm and green by settling in the Durlin. "It's relaxing and I'm wasting no time looking for a place to park my car. One thing bothers me, the tractors on the road "he jokes.

Attractive rates and contacts

Over the months, the tenants have sympathized with their owners. These moments of sharing are encouraged by the association, which asks farmers to organize an average of three meals a year with all residents. Around the table are students and apprentices, from all backgrounds, and having grown to half of them in the city.

"I have always loved contact with young people. I often had trainees for several months on the farm "says Didier Durlin who is very caring. "Recently, I went to find a tenant who had punctured by bike. And I will propose to those who wish to participate in the harvest against payment., he says. "Parents are reassured because they know that if their child has a problem, we are here"adds his wife, Claudine.

Attractive prices also explain the success of this initiative. Rents are 20 to 30% cheaper than those in town. "I am a student in Bethune, alternating in a company in Maubeuge. Having two rents to pay, it is appreciable », remarks Julie, 20, who pays 336 euros for a 34m2.

Above all, the association is much more flexible than many agencies or individuals. "When we announce that we want to rent only for a few months, twice in three, the owners refuse. With Campus Vert, there is no problem »says Thomas Andrieu, 29, a five-month veteran at EPAG-NG.

Studying in Paris costs € 500 more than in Limoges

Income diversification

For their part, farmers see it as an additional source of income in the medium or long term, the sums committed for work being still high. " In general, they have a return on investment after twelve years ", notes Odile Colin, director of the association.

Didier and Claudine Durlin spent € 315,000 on the project, which received € 80,000 from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. " Because of land pressure, land that was rented was built. This represents for us a loss of income. Diversification was necessary », says Didier Durlin.

In recent years, Frédéric Desmedt has constantly evolved his business in search of a stable and sustainable business model. The rents will complete his retirement once the loan is repaid. In March, he opened the Lowe's brewery a few meters from the apartments. Jean-Manuel Moreno has already bought several bottles. And without a doubt, one of them will be enthroned on the table at the next meal gathering the couple and its residents.

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Landmarks

In the Pas-de-Calais53 farmers took part in the Green Campus adventure. Launched in 1995 near Bethune, this initiative allows students to benefit from housing and provides additional income to farmers.

The network has 222 homes in the Pas-de-Calais. The association is also present in Brittany and Île-de-France.

RECIPES OF SUCCESS

Public support.

Green Campus is supported by the region and the department. Farmers receive aid from the EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development).

Farmers who invest. Operators take their time to participate in school open houses to introduce the concept.

Alban de Montigny