Development of the Chambord Vegetable Gardens

Vegetable gardens are part of the solution to major social problems such as the protection of the environment and biodiversity. The project is structured on several levels: the restoration of the stables, the design of the Vegetable Gardens and the installation of educational rooms. With this project, Chambord aims to become a showcase for agro-ecology.

Three years after the restoration of the French-style gardens on the northern parterre of the château, Chambord created an organic farm for market gardening and fruit growing. The aim is to design, in a permaculture approach, a stable agroecosystem based on careful observation of nature and its environment, respect for the environment and soil health. The Jardins-Potagers de Chambord are part of a perspective of agricultural renewal with the development of organic, ecological and soil regenerating agriculture. Fruit and vegetable production will be marketed in a short circuit in order to be part of a territorial dynamic.

More than forty varieties of vegetables will be produced, following a cultivation system that allows increased yields to be obtained on small areas. This profitability is possible thanks to the ergonomic, organized and standardized design, combined with low-tech tools and good soil fertility management. The care taken in every aspect of vegetable and fruit production will give vegetables exceptional flavours, nutrients, colours and textures.

Three issues:

– a social challenge with a healthy and sustainable food production, favouring the emergence of small diversified farms;
– an economic challenge with a viable agricultural project and job creation;
– a technical challenge with the use of the best technologies of today, put at the service of traditional agricultural practices;

A project that is part of Chambord's historical and natural heritage

This project is part of areas of the estate that had already fulfilled a nourishing function in the past. This is the case of the parcel known as “la prairie des Casernes” which included a vegetable garden in the 17th century as well as the stables of the Marshal of Saxony which were also composed of a vegetable garden in the 19th century.

Beyond this historical dimension, Chambord is a place full of natural resources and home to a rich natural ecosystem. By implementing this project, Chambord also aims to respond to changes in society and contribute to the preservation of biodiversity. A public institution under the triple supervision of the Ministries of Culture, Environment and Agriculture, it has been implementing a sustainable development policy for several years.

In a spirit of eco-responsibility, Chambord, an ecosystem included in the Natura 2000 network, intends to work to safeguard the environmental heritage.

The Chambord Vegetable Gardens accompany Chambord’s reinterpretation as a utopia at work with a domain once again thought of as a food source, nourishing and productive. In the park, hedges, ponds, etc. will contribute to the biological balance of the gardens (water purification, erosion control, shelter and food for wildlife…): the Jardins-Potagers de Chambord are created in the continuity of the management of the large Chambord park.

 

 

An educational project

The originality of the project lies in its pedagogical dimension: it is not only a question of exploiting vegetable gardens but also of awakening the public of Chambord to the benefits of a more natural agriculture. Also, guided tours will be conducted daily in the vegetable gardens. Training courses for professionals and project leaders will be regularly provided. The Chambord team has surrounded itself with people whose knowledge and expertise in the field of soil regeneration, arboriculture and landscape design are well established. In the long term, it is desirable that the model put in place can be duplicated.

THE PLACES

The areas concerned by the project are the “Saxony Marshal’s Stables” (5,000 m² enclosed by walls with buildings, including 1,000 m² cultivated) and the “La prairie des Casernes” plot (1.6 hectare plot conducted in agroforestry (orchards and vegetable gardens). The stables, classified as a Historic Monument, have undergone a first stage of restoration, with a view to welcoming the new developments of the Vegetable Gardens.

In the design of the stables, tree-lined trees and a square plan were adopted, in harmony with the architectural lines of the premises. The aim is to propose an aesthetic project that is consistent with the monument, especially since it will be visible from the castle’s terraces.

The parcel of the Casernes meadow is intended to host an abundant, resilient and self-fertile edible landscape. The recovered biomass will naturally fertilize crops and produce the plants needed to design natural care and treatment products. A small grassland will allow animals (laying hens, Sologne sheep) to be kept in the heart of the farm, thus renewing the fertile association between animals and plants.

 

Timeline and marketing strategy

THE MARKETING STRATEGY

As the vegetable gardens are designed in an entrepreneurial spirit, in accordance with the principle of using the own resources already implemented by Chambord, the products of the harvest will be marketed. The marketing will favour a short and local circuit whose first beneficiaries will be the estate’s agents, the Chambord restaurants, the starred chefs nearby but also the visitors to the estate. A formula inspired by the AMAP format (Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture de Proximité) will be implemented with the direct sale of products. A shop will also be set up to sell part of the crops, books, tools, seeds and other gardening and permaculture items on site.

The first investment being substantial, it is partly supported by patrons and partners and partly by the Chambord National Estate’s own resources.

THE CALENDAR

Work began in November 2018 and continues throughout 2019; the first fruit and vegetable harvests are scheduled for June 2019.

From utopia to action: the 9 projects in the field