NLENFR

Food Land

Portraits: #4 Kurt
Portraits: #4 Kurt
© Mieke Debruyne, 2020

Healthy food production in a climate-resilient landscape.

How do we organise a new interplay between land position and land use to create more space for healthy, profitable and affordable food production in a climate-resistant landscape?

Why a Food Land?

In order to achieve the goals, we must accumulate knowledge, learn by doing and accelerate practice development. Who joins forces?

Action plan

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Farmers and landowners are joining forces to create more space for locally produced food. Seven innovative strategies come to the fore.

Building Site

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1. Private individuals and farmers are joining forces to set up future-proof, local farms.

While the demand for local and healthy food is on the rise, the willingness of consumers to help make local food production possible again is also increasing. Just as citizens collectively purchase a district heat grid to supply their energy, they can invest in their own food supply. Investing in food means investing in land and in farmers! Citizens come together to jointly purchase land and employ a farmer to work it. Farms are more resilient if a group of private individuals stands alongside the farmer on the business side. Shared ownership allows certain financial costs and benefits to be borne collectively, such as trialling a crop that would not be profitable on the conventional market, sharing investments for expansion, or compensating harvest losses due to persistent drought. The farmer is supported democratically in his or her activities, can count on a group of shareholders during busy harvesting periods and benefits from a fixed wage. The citizen-entrepreneurs get a say in the cultivation plans and produce, are jointly responsible for the quality of the food they consume and enjoy a safe investment. In short, citizen-entrepreneurs and farmers collectively make long-term land use for food production possible!

bouwstenen: Herenboeren
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2. Farmers and owners of nature reserves join forces to achieve efficient and productive green management.

Not all agricultural activities of every farm need to take place within the boundaries of the farmer’s land. A growing number of farmers are using nature reserves in exchange for managing the green space. Some breeds of cattle and sheep are ideal grazers for managing and conserving natural meadows or poor heathland. By adopting a nomadic approach on a larger area, farmers prevent intensive grazing that exhausts the soil. Some farmers maintain the sides of hedges and collect the green waste to use as compost for cultivating vegetables. Farmers and nature conservationists are jointly setting up projects in which nature creation, reforestation and food production go hand in hand. This is interesting for the owners of nature reserves as they can outsource management of the land for free. Farmers have access to a larger area of land without the burden of land investments, which makes extensive farming financially feasible once more. Moreover, it guarantees long-term land use. Agricultural and nature areas collectively form a circular landscape.

bouwstenen: Het Bolhuis
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3. Farmers and landowners are joining forces to place locally produced food on the map on a large scale.

Many supermarkets would love to be able to offer more local and organic food. If farmers collaborate with major retailers, they jointly hold the key to elevate locally produced food so it is no longer a niche market. The financially robust position of retailers and their large-scale impact allow them to purchase land and experiment with the development of local or regional organic chains. Farmers have a guaranteed buyer and retailers can, in consultation with the farmer, respond to market demand. By setting up a model that is workable and fair for both the farmer and the buyer, we can safeguard a considerable amount of land for locally produced food and build on the infrastructure required to ‘relocalise’ the food chain.

bouwstenen: Het Zilverleen
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4. Farmers and project developers join forces to achieve climate resilient and productive management of the (semi) public space.

Residential expansion areas on or nearby agricultural land often jeopardise agricultural activities. But what if, in some places, food production has a greater right to exist than housing? Could we not change the land use classification? Or could farming be afforded an equal right to exist and be part of the development of new housing districts from the outset, even in non-agricultural areas? Bare, meticulously mown lawns would make room for a diversified, professional farm in conjunction with the residential area. Playing in the communal garden would involve discovering beasties that live in the soil, swinging over a field planted with leeks, or helping with the harvest. The shared space is a healthy and enticing environment, with clean air, a reduced heat island effect and opportunities for pollinators. Farming can provide a more climate-robust organisation of the space and the farmer can live near his or her field. The development of a productive public space offers farmers new access to land. It acts as a lever for the production of cheap, healthy food, preserves a fertile and climate-adaptive soil and boosts social cohesion in the residential district.

bouwstenen: Werve Hoef
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5. Farmers and care institutes/OCMWs join forces to achieve social objectives by means of a new land policy.

A considerable number of (semi) public institutes possess agricultural land thanks to historic investments or donations. The decision to purchase produce from local farmers to prepare public meals (in hospitals, schools, OMCW, municipal or national administrations), provides local farmers with a stable sales market and thus also security for the future. The (semi) public institutes are both landowners and buyers, but could also use their land to achieve their own objectives. Hospitals may want to focus on food production for the specific dietary needs of their patients. An OCMW could set up a socio-economic farming project focusing on employment care. If multiple professional kitchens bought a share of their volumes through a direct partnership with local farmers, this could serve as a major platform for guaranteeing long-term access to land for local food production.

bouwstenen: AZ ZENO
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6. Farmers and local administrations join forces to offer free space for entrepreneurship related to local food production.

While a lot of infrastructure is already available for today’s globally organised food system – such as our ports or road network – over the past seventy years, support facilities for local agriculture have disappeared from our landscape. Examples include access to forests for collecting organic material or goods traffic consisting of a ‘boerentram’ (literally translated as farmers’ tram) running between the city and the countryside. Public land and resources can provide new farmers or those converting their business with a boost. It could be achieved by making pilot plots available, setting up collective composting or processing infrastructure, or reorganising green and brown flows. Based on their historic land position and social responsibility, local administrations possess the tools to provide the next generation of farmers with space for experiments and innovation, in close cooperation with local farmers. These ‘farm start-ups’ can also help achieve sustainability goals in terms of the environment, employment or healthcare.

bouwstenen: BoerenBruxselPaysans
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7. Farmers and the authorities join forces to achieve spatial re-parcelling for strategic, local food production.

If we want to boost local food production we must provide farmers with long-term land security. Thanks to a well-considered approach to land management the authorities can provide enterprising farmers with access to land tailored to their business model and needs. We should not create new ground (for example on rooftops) using soil excavated from elsewhere, but protect the remaining fertile soil and use it more strategically. As a result of historic land parcelling, a great deal of industrial or residential expansion areas occupy fertile land. Even within agricultural areas there is arable land that would be better used as grassland, or vice versa, if you take into account the type of soil, soil fertility, location, gradient, access to the sales market or the availability of organic flows. After all, the idea that sustainable and climate-resilient food production is possible anywhere in any form is no longer valid. In our recent past, land re-parcelling was mainly used for upscaling and nature or infrastructure expansion. What if we also use this tool to reorganise landscapes to maximise land for local food production? Policy instruments such as land use planning and land re-parcelling could be applied to provide land guarantees to farmers who want to farm sustainably. Land observatories, land funds or other strategies could safeguard land for long-term food production and keep land prices under control.

bouwstenen: De Landgenoten

Many farmers and landowners are already working within innovative collaborations. How do we give them the wind in their sails and add up to an affordable plan for food production?

Discover the map with all the Building Blocks

Building blocks

Farmer Kurt Sannen, organic farm Het Bolhuis
Farmer Kurt Sannen, organic farm Het Bolhuis
© Het Bolhuis, Diest 2016

Het Bolhuis

At Het Bolhuis the production of organic beef and lamb goes hand in hand with extensive grassland management. The connection between nature and agriculture focuses on biodiversity and preserving soil quality. It constitutes the foundation for the business model’s profitability.
Pole for suburban agriculture
Pole for suburban agriculture
© BoerenBruxselPaysans

BoerenBruxselPaysans

BoerenBruxselPaysans uses public land and resources to provide new local farmers, or those converting their business, with the space required to experiment and innovate. The project is a crucial component of Good Food, the Brussels strategy to provide every Brussels resident with access to local, wholesome and good quality food in a healthy and qualitative urban landscape. Public land on the outskirts of the city literally provides the ‘free space’ for developing entrepreneurship related to local food production.
View of De Landgenoten
View of De Landgenoten
© De Landgenoten

De Landgenoten

The aim of De Landgenoten is to safeguard land for long-term food production. It achieves this by purchasing agricultural land with money from shareholders, donors and occasional income. De Landgenoten subsequently leases the agricultural land to (organic) farmers, via career-long contracts.
Farmer Lieven and Head of Catering Pieter De Smet
Farmer Lieven and Head of Catering Pieter De Smet
© Knokke-Heist

AZ ZENO

Patients at AZ Zeno hospital are served fresh vegetables directly from the field! The hospital opts for a substantial share of locally harvested, healthy and fresh food via a structural agreement with a nearby farm. As a result, AZ Zeno is helping to safeguard the future of local food production.
Harvest, Herenboerderij Wilhelminapark
Harvest, Herenboerderij Wilhelminapark
© Herenboeren Nederland, 2019

Herenboeren

On a Herenboerderij consumers invest in their own food supply. Citizens-Herenboeren join forces to collectively purchase or lease agricultural land. They recruit a farmer to run the business and together they determine what food will be grown and how. The farm is thus a business run by local residents.
Former owners of Het Zilverleen
Former owners of Het Zilverleen
© RR/PN, Alveringem 2018

Het Zilverleen

Het Zilverleen is an organic vegetable farm owned by the supermarket chain Colruyt Group. As a result of the takeover Colruyt Group is anchoring the local supply of organic vegetables for its own supermarket chain by means of an innovative and sustainable cooperation model with the organic farmer.
Collage design of the Werve Hoef
Collage design of the Werve Hoef

Werve Hoef

The old Wijnegem farm ‘De Werve Hoef’ is being restored to its former glory as a neighbourhood farm, with the development of a new, adjacent residential district. De Werve Hoef brings short chain farming to the outskirts of the city and embeds the new district in a sustainable, productive landscape. Housing development and farming are not necessarily irreconcilable.

Logbook

28.05.21video
Livestream recording #2 - FOOD LAND: PROMISING LAND-USE COALITIONS
How do we organise a new interplay between land position and land use to create more space for healthy, profitable and affordable food production in a climate-resistant landscape?
Lots of initiatives experiment with innovative coalitions that shift the focus from land ownership to land use. In exchange for its shared use, some farmers manage natural land. Some unite with citizens to jointly purchase land. Other farmers cultivate their customers’ land. These initiatives make room for food production by bundling the interests of owners with strategic land positions and the interests of farmers without land, in a collective project. In which conditions are these new types of coalitions possible? Who is already willing to jump aboard, and sometimes why not? What are the most strategic collaborations, and how can we multiply them?

A conversation with historian Tim Soens (UAntwerpen), bio farmer Kurt Sannen (Het Bolhuis), landscape & heritage advisor Shera van den Wittenboer (Board of Government Advisors of the Netherlands) and Joachim Declerck (Architecture Workroom Brussels) during the Great Transformation Session – Food Parks: Promising Land Use Coalitions (Thursday May 27 2021).
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26.05.21image
Montage Food Parks
The Food Parks Investment Programme focuses on new types of cooperation between farmers without land guarantees and landowners. What are the specific and successful frameworks for cooperation? What kind of exchanges take place? And what do governments, citizens and flanking organisations bring to the table?

26.05.21publication
Pitch Food Parks Investment Programme
This presentation describes the what and why of the Food Parks Investment Programme. The document served as a basis for initial discussions with various actors.

26.05.21video
Livestream recording #1: BUILDING A SOCIETAL WORKSPACE
Major challenges and ambitious plans are emerging thick and fast. But how do we shift from 'paper' analyses and intentions to achieving structural and qualitative changes in our neighbourhood, society and economy? How do we overcome this together?
On may 20 we launched The Great Transformation, an independent learning environment, incubator and public programme. Enterprising citizens, governments, businesses, financiers, scientists and organisations will work on actual breakthroughs and achievements. Using design and the power of the imagination, we are forming coalitions and formulating strategic sites that can be achieved on a huge scale between now and 2030.

What is the indignation and shared commitment behind The Great Transformation? We launch the online platform with innovative practices that form the Building Blocks for Future Places and Portraits that depict transitions from an eye-level perspective. We reflect on how to proceed.

A conversation with Koen Schoors (UGent), Griet Celen (VLM), Mieke Debruyne (Woestijnvis), Floris Alkemade (Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands) and Joachim Declerck (Architecture Workroom Brussels) about the (online) workspace of The Great Transformation.
555595310

31.03.21video
Portraits: #3 Yannick
Cultureghem stands for a fundamental social approach to food for urban dwellers, based on a simple key principle: access to healthy and affordable food for all. Under Yannick’s leadership the organisation contributes to a vibrant public space in one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods of Brussels.

31.03.21video
Portraits: #1 Rony
CSA farmer Ronny reveals how the Community Supported Agriculture model already guarantees his income at the beginning of the harvest season – his private customers pay a membership fee and jointly bear the risks. However, rocketing land prices in the outskirts of the city represent a significant obstacle for new farmers, regardless of the earnings model.

31.03.21video
Portraits: #4 Kurt
Livestock farmer Kurt has succeeded in establishing a number of win-win partnerships with nature organisations and fruit growers in the area, based on a vision that farming practices are part of a multilayered landscape.



Readings


Book
Sitopia
Carolyn Steel
Chatto & Windus

Publication
Your land, my land, our land
Collective document coordinated by European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), Terre de Liens, URGENCI, Eco Ruralis, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM-EU), Real Farming Trust (RFT) and Transnational Institute (TNI), to which many allies and other organisations have contributed. It was produced as part of the Erasmus + partnership on Innovative Land Strategies.
Nyéléni Europe and Central Asia platform for Food Sovereigty

Book
Vers la resilience alimentaire
Projet collectif porté par les membres de l’association Les Greniers d’Abondance et coordonné par Félix Lallemand et Arthur Grimonpont
Les Greniers d'Abondance

Video
Boer zkt grond
Berber Verpoest
Apache

Book
Taking the country's side
Sébastien Marot
Polígrafa and Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa

Video
Boerenbedrog
Greet Pluymers, Katrien Kubben, Bavo Delbaere
Pano

Publication
Pilootprojecten Productief Landschap
ILVO & Team Vlaams Bouwmeester
ILVO

Book
Hungry city
Carolyn Steel
Chatto & Windus