Benoît Ceysens, Director La Ferme Nos Pilifs
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Sheltered workshops, providing employment for people with disabilities, must learn to work with both the traditional and fast-changing economy if they want to survive and flourish.
At Ferme Nos Pilifs, we aim to develop a more inclusive economic model, one that reorganizes energy, jobs and products so that everyone can find a job. To achieve that, we must build bridges between the social and the traditional economy. We need to reinvent the way we work.
It is also important for Ferme Nos Pilifs that our farm and social enterprise are not merely regarded as a sheltered workshop; people shouldn’t come to us out of compassion. Ferme Nos Pilifs is a valuable company that provides useful, high-quality work.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
Ferme Nos Pilifs makes openness and diversification its trademark. It chooses to develop small-scale, local and craft activities close to the needs of the people who work at the farm. It focuses on strong, local relationships.
Visitors will find a small café, a children’s farm, a tree nursery, an ecological garden company, a grocery-come-bakery, including homemade organic bread and pastries and a handling and mailing service for the printing and distribution of mail.
Currently, the farm employs 170 people, including 140 with minor disabilities. Each activity is adjusted to the capacities of the employee and each job must have a social dimension, be financially viable and fit within the project’s environmental-friendly framework.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?
Just like any company, Ferme Nos Pilifs needs reliable financial partners. Our collaboration with Triodos Bank goes beyond the traditional client-supplier relationship. Triodos Bank has become a true partner.
For projects that require a substantial investment, the approach to the financing makes all the difference. Triodos Bank’s answers always are recommendations more than commercial proposals. For a businessman it is great added value to be able to trust your bank in this way.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
The inclusive business model that Ferme Nos Pilifs has developed is unique in its sector, such as the far-reaching diversification and connection with the district and the town.
As well as a local focus we are active in our federation (FEBRAP, the Brussels federation of sheltered workplaces) and continue to work to preserve employment positions for the most vulnerable workers.
What impact has your business had on the community?
The establishment of the Ferme Nos Pilifs in Belgium’s Neder-Over-Heembeek has had a positive effect on the district. By involving the local community in its activities, Ferme Nos Pilifs has helped to provide the district with a positive image.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Providing meaningful, dignified employment for people with disabilities at Ferme Nos Pilifs aligns with the core principles of the social economy in which Triodos Bank has already acted as a financier for 20 years in Belgium.