#IciOnActit. Organic vegetables in a former air base near Metz

Its culture boards are like a great chef’s plate. Thoughtful, neat, streamlined. Since March 2019, Alexis Horbowa has been one of two organic gardeners based, for three years, at the former Air Base 128, outside Metz. The Metz Metropolis has entrusted him with 5,000 m² of open land, 1,100 m² in tunnels and agricultural equipment. The two gardeners of the agrobiopolo are in their forties, are training and are discovering the toughness of the profession. They have “overcome certain fears”, according to Alexis Horbowa, to take off in organic horticulture.

A soil less polluted than a field!

In 2012, Metropolis acquired these 380 hectares of military vacant land. The land, from which air force planes flew until 2012, is fertile, ideal for fresh produce. Almost everything takes root in these certified organic soils before the first harvests. Surprisingly, the military site is less polluted than the fields, in conventional agriculture, depleted by years of inputs.

“The soil is sandy loam, very interesting for horticulture. There is very little clay, it is a soil that dries quickly, which requires extensive irrigation, a more delicate monitoring ”, explains Alexis Horbowa. With his first harvests, he had few failures, but says “not all are successful.” This summer, his zucchini could not be stored, “you just have to know.” This winter, his lamb’s lettuce did not come off, “it is stunted, it is going to compost”. So he watches, tests, experiments.

A salary from the first season

This first year of cultivation seemed unexpected on paper. Alexis Horbowa produced between 10 and 15 tons of vegetables, “classics”. Salads, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, Jerusalem artichokes are easily sold in a nearby organic store and in baskets. It is requested in short circuit but the production does not follow.

The market gardener confirmed that on his own he must physically save himself, limit repetitive movements and find the right moment. “The harvest is exhausting, everything is happening at the same time. “Next season Alexis will plant more densely in her flower beds. You will use your small tractor more often to aerate your soil.

His large garden, with the horizon as far as the eye can see, has already allowed him to pay his salary. In a year and a half he will hand over the baton to another gardener. More will be grown, perhaps in the agrobiopole, still close to its distribution channel, but on its own.