Walking the Talk

(To my readers: this is longer than my usual blog but well worth your reading!)

Mathieu Yème is the oldest son of my friend, Barbara. I’m writing about him today because he is a remarkable man and I’m going to ask you to help him out this Christmas season. 

Mathieu was born in Paris and raised, bilingual, in the Burgundy area of France. He studied engineering in France and Brazil and holds a degree in Engineering. He also speaks five languages! Until a few years ago, he worked in Aachen, Germany as a well-respected engineer with projects all over the EU (pre-Brexit). He took a year off with the blessings of his workplace (who paid him a stipend), and traveled the world with his then girlfriend. They would stay in countries long enough to work somewhere, usually as volunteers, learn the culture, how they grew food and sustained their lives. You can read about their amazing trip at https://sustainable-autonomy.weebly.com

With all this information knocking around inside of him, Mathieu decided to do what many of us would love to do but don’t have the courage.

He quit his job to be a better citizen on our planet.

Mathieu Yème

After some self-questioning about how to best use all that he has learned, he landed in the Périgord-Limousin region of France.  He bought land with nine other like-minded people. They are growing food without using machines, without chemicals, and with huge love.

Although this is a collective, there are individual projects that each person is responsible for. Mathieu has decided to concentrate on berries, to build a business that could possibly begin to support them. 

Why berries? Because berries are delicious and who doesn’t love berries?

The following is an interview with Mathieu. He has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to get started on planting this Winter. If he can raise enough funds, he can buy the shrubs and get them in the ground by February. Mathieu is a committed, dedicated and humble man. If he says he will do something, he will do it. I hope that you will consider a Christmas gift to him and his collective. His success could inspire more people to do what they are doing and wouldn’t that be wonderful for our planet? Go to: https://jadopteunprojet.com/decouvrez-les-projets/detail/les-petits-fruits-de-la-varlanchie.

(Mathieu has written in French and English. If you are an English speaker, scroll past the French. There are several sections explaining the project in detail).

In return, you will benefit when the berries come to fruition. Pun intended! Mathieu says when you are in France, you are always welcome to visit them and get a tour.

The land waiting for the shrubs!!

These are Mathieu’s words. I have only edited for grammar and conciseness.

1–Why is your berry project important in our society today?
I think it is important because my project is part of a bigger collective endeavour. Ten of us bought a common piece of land. We cooperate together to lead good lives in our territory. To do so, we acknowledge that speaking about ethics and values is important, embodying our values to make it happen for real is essential. Since example is often the best teacher, we perhaps need more true stories to push us to action. We want to share that story with you one day. A story of cooperation, abundance, autonomy and resilience, good life, sharing…

2–You used to work as an engineer.  How has engineering informed your decision to devote your life to “working without machines, with living soil, on small surfaces and with a lot of love”

I want to work without machines because machines harm the soil. I want to take care of the soil because the soil takes care of our plants and therefore of us. As I also want to take care of myself, I will focus on smaller surfaces to limit the damage. Smaller and slower solutions fit my values and vision better.
I guess my inspiration came more from my permaculture training, travels, and several experiences on farms than my engineering training. For sure, engineering helps me do the math, understand the pros and cons and thus decide rationally what solution is a priori technically best within a given context. But brain work is not sufficient. My inspiration comes from my guts and my heart. Brain, guts and heart agree on working without machines, with living soil and with a lot of love.
Last but not least, it also makes the berries grow healthier and taste better.

3–Is this similar to what the hippies did back in the 70s when they lived on communes and lived off the land? How is it different?
Good question and hard for me to say, since I was not there back in the 70s. Nevertheless, my project and our collective initiatives do not appear from nowhere. I am sure the hippies inspired us in a way. Communes inspire us. As a matter fact the ten of us met through an association named “la Commune Imaginée du Bandiat” (bandiat.org). Many real stories inspired us all.
What might be similar is the collective action and the dreams for a free and brighter future.
What is different is this context/ I want to hope. I think our society also needs hope. To be perfectly honest, as far as I am concerned, it is not easy nowadays to be 100% optimistic when it comes to our collective future. Ecological destruction, social injustice, biodiversity collapse, resource depletion and related increasing scarcity, tensions on energy supply, authoritarianism and war… The list goes on and I do not want to give up on hope. We feel a compelling urge for action and for change.

4–Why did you choose berries to begin your new model of making the existing one obsolete?
I chose berries, not so much to make the older model obsolete but because I still have a foot in the current model. In the current social model, money plays a substantial role. I will cultivate berries to generate income. I want to share this income to support our collective initiatives and concretely participate in the dynamics of our local economy. In return, our local economy -economy in a broad sense- allows us to depend less and less on money. When money plays a secondary role in the definition of our material conditions of existence, we depend less and less on the current model, we make it obsolete.

5–What is the most important thing that you want your investors and friends to know about you and this project?
I want you to know that it is possible to say “STOP”. When I quit my job, I knew I wanted to meet others, find land, and grow towards more autonomy, resilience, reconnection, regeneration, and federation. Everywhere, people of good will inspire us to love and act, to prefer care and cooperation to hate and competition. And yes, we can do it so let’s do it. 

6–Are you using any existing models either in France or the US as examples to guide you?
The forest inspires me a lot. Permaculture inspires me a lot; it is so wide, so complex. Farms and the collectives I visited all over the world and had the opportunity to do volunteer work for, also inspired me a lot. The next inspirations will come from careful observation and interaction with the land.

7--Why should people who don’t know you give you money?
If you have money, you can spend it. When you spend money, you also make a decision, a decision that influences the world we live in. If you feel we have values in common and you also hope for a brighter future, I offer you the opportunity to support a grassroots project that embodies our values to progressively realise our dreams. You can humbly choose to make dreams come true.

8–What have I not asked you that you would really like people to know?
Your questions are really good! Under other circumstances, I would take a longer time to answer such questions. I did my best to keep my answers as short as I could. Obviously, what led me to answering your questions today is a long process, several years of exploration. If people want to know more, I would be more than happy to dive into more details!
Meanwhile, please know that you are more than welcome in our green Périgord-Limousin.

If, after you have read this and the crowdfunding site which is full of information, you would like to know more about Mathieu or contact him, please write me in the comments and I will forward on to him. Meanwhile, let’s help make his dreams come true.There will be delicious berries in our future!


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A bientôt,


Author: Sara Somers

I am retired from my first profession, am from Oakland, California, living in Paris, France since 2013. I love books, movies, and watching everyday life in Paris out my window. Please enjoy my musings as I grow into the author others say I am. I am always open to thoughts and ideas from others about this blog. I like to write about Paris, about France, about the US as seen from France. About France that the US may or may not know.

3 thoughts on “Walking the Talk”

  1. I have known Matthew for 2 years and I liked him right away. He is enthusiastic and committed. We need young people like him to undo the ecological damage our generation has done and prepare the future of our planet. We can’t go on like this and the enlightened young people that Matthew is a part of are committed to turning the corner on the environment with commitment and determination! Let’s help them for ourselves, for the world we would like to leave and for future generations.

  2. Thank you Sara for spreading the word about Mathieu’s project to your readers. As his mother it’s hard for me to be impartial, but I can say with sincerity, how proud I am of him and what he’s doing in his community trying to build a more sustainable future. Everyday he’s working from dawn to dusk preparing his soil by hand with natural compost for planting his berries. He’s using his love of nature and engineering skills to plan, calculate, manage and progress. Let’s give a gift this year to the planet by helping Mathieu. 🙏

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