Event: How to bring back human potential to rural areas - ‘you need to offer them more than just a plot of land’

Event 23 November at 18:00 - 19:30 CET

The purpose of this event is to learn about initiatives (new and ongoing) which are contributing to rural re-development by actions taken by people, communities, cities and other stakeholders.

To join, please Register by leaving a comment below. Tell us why you are interested in this topic: are you or your friends moving to a rural area or starting a project there? who should be supporting revitalisation of the countryside? should we rely on our politicians or can we, as a community, help ourselves out of this crisis situation where local food is not enough available or too expensive to produce sustainably?

We will send the link to the Zoom meeting one day before the event.

Session background

The event follows our session from a few weeks ago on Food localisation. Participants made important points: we need to better support and acknowledge the Farmer; it is difficult to produce local food and set the prices right so that local or organic products are also affordable for the masses; and above all, the question arised: how can we make local food more widespread? and more generally, how can more capacity be built in rural areas?

Here is what others are saying about the urban - rural gap and how we could support closing the gap.

Rural areas are not attractive, not vibrant. How could we have more farmers or do more farming?
The first ideas were shared by Irene who talked about ‘neo-rurals’ here, and this was mentioned again during the session on Food localisation. @lylycarrillo asked this too. @Vladb: You need to have more than farms in the rural areas. Services, but also entertainment. I don’t want to drive one hour to have that. In order for young farmers to come to rural areas, you need to offer them more than just a plot of land. You need education tailored to students in each category.

The need to build new business models in rural farming

@FrankDieters, civil servant: In Holland, you have a big gap between large scale farmers (who have invested a lot in scale up) and the smaller community, they can’t compete with the prices. We don’t want to lose those farmers, they are more than food producers: they take care of the landscape, they produce also social value. You can’t put that in money. Big companies come in, and they don’t look at the value of the community. When the land is depleted, they go off to the next one.

I’m thinking about the system change from within. What we do is we say: we’re going to help those farmers. How is your farm doing? How is your business model built? What challenges are around you and how can we make that into a money maker for you? For example, if you have landscape elements we give you subsidies to keep them there. We are going to help you put innovative solutions in your companies, through subsidies, and also together with the banks.

How do members of the minority relate to farming? Is rural a point of divide if we think about nationalism?

@Dragan_Jonic: a few days ago we visited a community of young farmers [in Serbia]. Much of their land is earmarked for being repurposed into construction land, on which Rio Tinto will build tailings deposits. And the „lucky ones” wil get a hefty reward which they don’t want, while the others around will get only poison and pollution. I feel like not living in a European country.

@Dubravka: I’m half Serbian and half Croatian. Concerning my country, there is a problem of nationalism. But in the area of farming, I don’t think you would have a problem.

The problem in Serbia is that young people are not interested in farming. The University and Dpt. of Agriculture has less and less students every year.

@Paco21 : It starts getting very complicated when you have other economical issues. In Southern Europe, you have people coming from Morocco etc. during the harvesting. They are using the labor that is cheaper. The level is: how to produce at a very low cost. But you don’t have that everywhere, and in Belgium you have to pay people higher salaries, so people are moving from Spain to Northern Europe for better income, and Moroccans move to Spain for the same reason. The backlash is then not a question of racism, but a more complex situation.

For someone considering a career in farming who is a minority, how are they welcomed in such rural communities ex: in Poland or Serbia? Is it different from in the cities?

@Dragan_Jonic: A few years ago, we tried to engage some young refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan passing through Serbia in urban farming (garden community „Baštalište” near Belgrade). With not much success, unfortunately. They came twice and left, their mentor should’ve worked harder on their motivation. I mean, it’s not that I don’t understand them. They didn’t come from farming communities, couldn’t recognise plants. It needed a lot of work. Not to mention mosquitoes and hauling canisters of water.

We speak digital and most farmers in Serbia think analogue. Footwork, footwork, footwork and empathy. At least in my country, that’s the only way. We’re establishing informal networks, too - between the end users and farmers

@JohnCoate: how much migrant labor is used in Europe? For example, California depends on it. @jasen_lakic: A lot of Eastern Europeans work in France, Germany etc…they come as seasonal workers. @Wolha: For example Ukrainian workers are picking up strawberries in Poland

’Human potential is a huge problem’. What can citizens do themselves?

Jasen: Human potential is a huge problem, right now migration reached such a bad point in many Croatian regions that it is hard to start a rural business…no workers are even available.

@MariaEuler: My great uncle is a farmer in Germany, so were my grandparents. My great uncle had to transfer the farm to his 20 year old son because they needed the support that was given in subsidies to young farmers. Family structures can get important and complicated via this. Does not necessarily fit with modern family structures and live plans, people have to make decisions early to keep their family farms alive. On a neighbouring farm the daughter who works on the farm has split from her husband, but he is part of the farm and can not be paid out, so they need to keep working together. Anachronistic structures develop this way (this is in rural Germany).

Jasen: We fought 2 years to have roads built, electricity and water connected to 3 remote villages near mine in Croatia…

the problem is “there are no people, so how to justify the investment”. How do we bring people without the infrastructure?

Dragan: In Serbia, not much of public incentives for young people to come back. On the other hand, some are returning, but because of something else. Because of environmental protests in the area. Maria: Maybe a problem for the coming back and using support for young people is also that investments do not necessarily grow and be paid out again afterwards, so decisions need to be final. While a flat or business in a urban area can easier be sold of and refinanced again. Their idea of committing early to a long-term life plan is hard for young people today.

There is a relationship between citizen engagement, citizen empowerment on different levels which expands the space for what can be done to make rural living more viable and attractive

Nadia: Informal decentralised approaches towards these communities is crucial. Frank: the empowerment, engagement and reconstruction of a relations. Jasen: Yes, the human potential is everything and can take care of most issues locally. I believe a big part of return to rural areas would be change in understanding that not everyone in rural areas needs to be a farmer…we can transform the countryside really. Dragan: Decentralisation as a strategy for tackling dysfunctional political systems/ corruption. In Serbia it worked. Mobilise people within 30 minutes. Nadia: This could be interesting thing to look at also, communication infrastructure that is resilient and autonomous.

Ongoing conversations you can join before the session on 23 November:

How is the event financed?

This event is part of the POPREBEL initiative, funded by the European Commission under grant agreement number 822682 from 2019-2021. This conversation is hosted by Edgeryders, in partnership with University College London (United Kingdom), University Karlova (the Czech Republic), University Jagiellonski (Poland), University of Belgrade (Serbia). Learn more about the project here.


Eu emblem

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@noemi Count me in.

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Super-interested

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I live in rural Vlaams-Brabant where there is a whole lot of commercial farming of apples pears maize sugar beet etc. Sadly, only a small amount of organic agriculture, and lots of annoying pesticides and large modern farming vehicles. There is some new building going on, but also many derelict buildings around. Though I might not be active in making it happen, I would love to see rural regeneration around here.

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Cool, signed you up! What are you up to these days @thom_stewart?

@jvangeyte and @lylycarrillo work in Flanders and could probably tell you more about some agri projects there for sustainability…?

With my other company Beanlife we are working with Flemish soybeans produced by local farmers and are seeing a systematic effort to support organic farming, but we don’t yet know about how sustainable this particular crop is for the lands, and the LCA of locally produced legumes. They are also trying to produce chickpeas and quinoa, and again, same risks.

Are you growing things yourself @asimong? or do you own your land…? and how come you moved from the UK? I forgot the most important question!

Hey again Noemi

Today I’m inducting staff for the mental health cafe project you may remember from ideation stage. See:

At about 40 mins in, visual prototype.

More relevant to this thread, been working on establishing Community Land Trusts in Ireland - currently looking at getting baseline stats for a Midlands site, on an ecological regeneration slant?

Pretty influenced by Kulturland Coop and Stiftung Trias, got some support through SHICC, currently moving into test site stage with it all.

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@noemi i am in! :slight_smile:

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Very curious about this. Would you be willing to share a little about your experience before (here) or during the event (live), for about 10 minutes?
I think having good case studies will go a long way to help us underdstand what models are available.

Mainly, the questions would be:

  • Who is participating and how are local authorities involved?
  • Are there urban dwellers involved, and if so, what is the value added for them?
  • Is food being produced: by who and for whom?
  • How someone from another country can set up similar Trusts, where land regulations could be different? What are the major roadblocks to figure out before starting?

Or anything else you found crucial,

Perfect!
Will send a reminder next week, but before that: Vlad and everyone - please block the date in your calendar!

This session will be from 18:00 to 19:30 maximum, so a little shorter than the last time :slight_smile:

I’m happy to join the conversation.

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Hi there, last sunday i was visiting a social garden here in Parma, in the northern part of Italy, where members should garden a spot of it and keep it open to the public at least once per season for some activities, mainly cultural. At the same time i’m participating in a A Study Group for Restoring Planetary Health and Avoiding Human Extinction called “Earth Regenerators” (https://earth-regenerators.mn.co/), whose goal is to advocate for bioregions. I think that taking action in cities and towns with youngsters especially, might create a fruitful ground to inspire gardeners, but also farmers and self standing communities in rural areas. In Italy there are many little ghost towns (borghi), some even medieval on the mountains, or abandoned ruined farms in the country side. Financial aids and public support -as far as i know- are not so well developed, although a transition from high intensive coltures to saustainable and bio agricolture are growing year by year.


For instance, a group of citizens are taking care of another garden in a far side of Parma called Picasso Food Forest, inspired to urban forests and part of a project called Fruttorti (http://www.fruttortiparma.it/). The idea is to develop projects by a community of volunteers and experts to rebalance and connect people to nature. Also students, migrants and researchers that come from other sides of Italy and Europe visit often the project and join temporarily the community. See you on the 23rd!

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Thank you for sharing this @federico_monaco! And good to hear from you, it’s been a while,

What you describe I believe happens a lot here and there: for example, I myself when I was part of a local community supported agriculture group with urbanites getting their veggie baskets weekly had to work closely with the farmers to jump in when their crops were affected by weather events i.e. we did a mobilising action to go ‘save the tomatoes’ because the farmers were lacking labour. The issue I see is that these (my and your examples too) fall more in the category civil society: it’s based on organisations doing community mobilisations, intermediating between citizens and farmers, and this rests on subsidies, public or private - even though there was the lucrative advantage for the farmers whose income depended on this group of consumers.

But still, this goes to tell that the civil society and public funding play a key role.

Where do you see opportunities for more economical benefits in your examples, if you think about entire rural communities being able to make a living out of their valuable work, caring for the environment and so on?

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Hi @noemi,
I think new rural economy based on sustainability, resiliency, SLOC dynamics, and so on, be part of new ways to conceive values, not only standarides by money and what you might buy by it, but by so called “ecological transition” also good information, good quality of life, commons and “farming with nature”. Is just my opinion, but there is a missing link between urban and rural, as there is between public and private when it comes to agricolture. Going back to farming, or better going forward to farming in certain informed ways (a steampunk narrative perhaps) could foster the roles of farmers at the global level and connect solutions for pollution, climate change, global market, to small and local quality. Cities and citizens as consumers should boost such process perhaps.

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This is really the point that perhaps we should take on board during our event - the interconnections between our planet health and the food chain, and how the rural livelihoods could mediate that!

@Dragan_Jonic made a similar connection here between industrial plants built in rural areas and reviving local food - his approach is activism and working very closely with farmers to support them to cultivate in natural ways, and bank on the national tourism who starts to converge to an endangered rural area but also provides economic benefits to locals: How do we bring people back to rural areas and support local food production?

I am interested in participating.
Now I live in Warsaw in Poland but in future I think about moving to a rural area and become a farmer. Most likely I will do it with other people.

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I tried a couple of times to initiate something like this, and didn’t work. I’ll try again. Please count me in.

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Welcome on board @Emblotka123, happy to have you in our community!

Can I ask you: what motivates you to start such a project? Is this something you think is becoming more attractive for people who live in cities in Poland?

To you and @Alessandro: w e will send the link to the Zoom event Monday morning!

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Ecological farming in Poland is made on a really small scale. I feel that there is a need to give people chance to have access to good quality food in a reasonable prices. Also alternatives to big supermarkets are needed like cooperatives, direct cooperations between farmers and customers.
Regarding living in the village it depends more on personal needs, awareness ect.
For me personally for my mental and physical health I need a quite place and being close to nature. I would like to live in a community where social relations are strong, focused on cooperation and mutual support. And being
surrounded by other people who have sensitivity to other people or creatures or the effect of their actions on the environment.
By my project I would like to show people that another structures than those offered by capitalist world and big organizations are possible.

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I heard an interesting presentation a year or so ago about valuing land and the soil. Turns out that even if you do conventional economics properly, industrial farming looks like asset destruction. Laws definitely needed here!

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