Jean-Guy Henckel was born in the French region of Franche-Comté, to a working-class family that valued austerity and hard work. After completing his studies in the city of Besançon, he took a job as an educator at a transition shelter for the unemployed, where he was saddened to see people so unoccupied, wandering about with no clear goals. He came up with the idea of providing work to socially disadvantaged people. He chose organic truck farming as a sustainable solution.
In 1991, he founded the very first Jardin de Cocagne in Chalezeule, a small rural community located near Besançon. The name of the farm was inspired by the legend of Cocagne, which refers to a time when the dyer’s woad plant was at the centre of the region's prospering economy. The source of a blue dye that was sought after throughout Europe, the plant’s leaves were formed into dried balls called cocagnes, which became a synonym of “the Land of Plenty”. True to their namesake legend, Jean-Guy Henckel’s organic gardens have grown constantly, becoming an enormous social, environmental and commercial success.