Today, various actors are looking for ways to put locally produced food on the map. Both local demand and international targets are at the root of the desired transition to shorter food chains.
At the same time, agricultural land is becoming increasingly scarce. Due to nature expansion and climatic challenges such as flooding, drought or erosion, the idea that any form of agriculture is still possible anywhere is no longer valid.
On the other hand, agricultural land is an interesting investment, also for non-farmers. Up to twenty percent of fertile agricultural land in Flanders is in use by other sectors such as recreation, housing or infrastructure.
The increasing number of claims on agricultural land is reducing the supply of land for food production. As a result, land prices are skyrocketing. This is a problem for farmers just starting out or wanting to expand. Given the low food prices, it is almost impossible to recoup investments in land over an entire career.
Land ownership is under pressure in the agricultural sector. The future use of land for food production is uncertain.
Here and there, initiatives emerge that strive to preserve agricultural land for local food production, devoting attention to a fair income for the farmer. These pioneers are shifting 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. Others 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. This is important, because even if we succeed in preserving agricultural land, we still do not have enough space for a ‘parcelled’ approach to water storage, food production and recreation. We will have to develop an and-and story, in which several functions are organised in one place.
What if we structurally address agriculture and nature management together? What if more citizens invested in land for locally produced food? What if we use public land to produce the thousands of meals needed for our schools and care institutions? Existing and new players on the land market do not have to compete with agriculture, but can help make food production possible!