Permaculture; La Ferme du Bec Hellouin


©Eric Bernard- L’Express

When Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer bought that small land in Normandie-France, he was a sailor wandering seas, and she was a brilliant lawyer in Hong-Kong. When they invested in that project, they were far from imagining that their modest farm will become a model of sustainability and permaculture, studied, admired and copied in lots of different countries.

When you are walking along the farm here is what your stupefied eyes can see. Right to the main house, you can find the “Mandala garden” shaped in a circle, where kilos of varied vegetables are growing. Further, there is a glasshouse, where grows tomatoes, melons, turnips, cucumbers, eggplants. In the middle of it, what tend to be unusual, a hen house full of laying hens, walking around. The reason? Laying hens bring heat and poultry, which is the best fertilizer you can wish for. And because at La Ferme du Bec Hellouin, nothing is wasted and each space has its role and importance, the glasshouse’s arch welcome grapevines to grow along it.


©Eric Bernard-L’Express

Close to it, a big pond, with two islands, used as “garden-forest” cultivated under Agroforestry’s principles. Built with three levels, the first one is a mix of strawberries, raspberries and black currants. Cherries, apricots, pears, apples and mirabelles can be find on the second level. And a bit everywhere grows different kinds of nuts, edible creepers and corns.

This sounds idyllic, but both Charles and Perrine could tell that it has not always been that magic. When they bought that land, they surprisingly found the soil was not fertile. In 2004, Perrine did some research and found what was going to be the solution to their problem; the permaculture method.

Created in 1970 par two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgreen, that term signified “permanent agriculture”, before being expand to the vaster concept of “cultivation of continuity”, because the point of it, is to imitate how nature is working since millions of years. “Permaculture is as environment-friendly as human-friendly, explained Charles, it helps to create harmony between men and nature, but also sustainability and resilience. We also learned that this concept was saving energy and time, as the nature itself is responsible for a major part in the growing process”.


©Eric Bernard-L’Express

The couple created a farm where they are taking care of the soil, where everything is organic, and where most of the field work is handmade, without electronic machines, meaning with no fossil energies. “On a small lands, manual labor is more effective and produce more. Permaculture allows to feed a family thanks to a simple garden, without any machines, pesticides, and it avoid debts and dependence”, explained Perrine.

Charles and Perrine try every day to highlights the benefits of permaculture, by showing how they built flourishing ecosystems, where every entity has its part. The concept of permaculture insist on the fact that every compost, every bit of nature is a resource. Planting trees at the right place, can cut the wind or create shadow to a smaller entity, it also encourage pollination and regulate temperature, and most of all it brings wealth to soil through its dead leaves and rotten fruits.


©Eric Bernard-L’Express

Perrine and Charles applied a whole new way of cultivating nature, that works, preserves nature and men, and creates a better tomorrow.

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