Taking the leap: from a consumption cooperative to a garden!

Interviewing Salvador Ferran and Esther Toran. Gardens Network – Can Pujades Cooperative

What’s the name of your cooperative and where does it come from?

Our Cooperative is called Can Pujades and its name comes from an old “Masia” (typical farmhouse in Catalunya) placed in our neighbourhood whose owner was the municipality. The Masia was built in 1700 and it was still in good structural conditions. The Neighbours association in Vallvidrera had always claimed to be able to use that space in order to make sustainability projects for the district. Its strategic situation and its history made this Masia very emblematic for us. In her, we could imagine the history of a small mountain village made out of Masies gathered around a millennial church with a subsistence economy and the small trading activities with the few surplus they had with the villages in Barcelona (in that moment, Barcelona was not a city as it’s right now, but a group of several villages).

 

How and when did you come up with the idea of creating a consumption cooperative?

After the demolition of the Masia Can Pujades, a group of neighbours realized they needed to be able to give a new life to the old masies around, which now is a big natural park and which we should make sure this would be a lively natural park, a life that has, little by little, started to disappeared because agriculture has been abandoned in the area. Masies with gardens, crops, herds and use of natural resources as wood, water, green energies, etc, as it’s been happening for the last thousand years.

That’s why a group of neighbours, with the support of the Neighbours association in Vallvidrera decided to organize on 2010 the first Agricultural Fair in Collserola, with the aim to promote the ecological agriculture and the farmers in the surroundings to enhance Collserola as an alive and lively natural park and to improve its biodiversity, both at a fauna and crops and seeds level.

Once sensitized, some neighbours started to collect information to start getting organized as a consumption cooperative. In our “foundational DNA” there’s the need of promoting that the majority of consumption products come from Collserola and are ecological.

 

How have you get organized until now?

To start working, the cooperative members got organized in 4 tasks shared among all the members: suppliers, organization, treasury, new member and external relations.

 

What tips would you give to a new cooperative?

Once an affinity group is created and the aims are clear, start to walk with no fear. Keep in mind that around you there is a lot of people willing to change their life and consumption style and they will support you.

 

What are the reasons why you, as a cooperative, decide to do a garden?

We already had a lot of proposals to recover the Masía and its lands when it was demolished. But it was only during the monthly meetings with the cooperative members that we came up with the idea of looking for a garden in the neighbourhood for those members not having one. Most of the members have always had a completely urban culture and, for them, this is a completely brand new world and they know nothing about it. They wanted to enjoy and experiment with the support of the members who know about gardens and this has produced a lot of motivation among the group, some of us to teach, some of us to learn: which better cooperative project can you imagine?

 

How did you manage to get it?

The opposition to the municipal government at the moment the Masia was demolished felt ashamed of this way of doing politics. The parties had our proposals and, once the opposition reached the government, they let everyone know about their will to try to repair the damage caused by the demolition of a masia and a project.

Our speakers have been the staff in charge of the management of the urban gardens of the Barcelona municipality, the Collserola Commissioner and the staff of the Collserola prak. We didn’t need to prepare much because we already knew what we wanted but we’ve received the support of two architects that work on sustainability and Degrowth.

The Barcelona city hall has an urban garden model for the whole city. We wanted a simpler, more cooperative and ecological model, and we wanted it to be a place of learning and self-sufficiency. The city hall with good willingness and the cooperative, after several meetings, have arrived to a consensus: one part will be managed by the city hall and another part will be managed by the neighbours.

 

What’s been the easiest thing during the process? and the most difficult one?

The most difficult thing has been making the staff of the city hall understand that our project was something much more ambitious than an urban garden and we would like it to be a sustainability and cooperation model. We would like to connect the consumption cooperative to the agricultural fair rand the cooperative garden. Also, it’s been difficult to make them understand that we can make a garden with fewer resources than the ones they plan.

The easiest thing has been from the moment the staff has understood the proposed model, from this point, everything’s been easy. Right now we’re writing the project and still there are some steps to do.

 

What tips would you give to some garden that doesn’t have an appropriate place to work on their activities?

According to our experience, we think that, if one is motivated and has imagination, almost all projects, in one way or another, can be realized. You just need to persist and have clear ideas.