Some of us have been talking a lot about the need to ‘educate’ farmers to stick to traditional farming, write funding proposals, build their own community of support and local circuits
Indeed, although with the new CAP it sounds like we are going exactly in the opposite direction again. It is as well a matter of structural funding and bargaining power… and accessibility to quality food not solely for the most affluent (see the nutrients collapse since the 1950s in almost all foods). I think the neo-rurals in general often start with a different model in mind, if I recall well 10% of new peasants in France for instance start from scratch (not from inherited land) and do not want to reproduce the mistakes of past generations submerged by debt, monoculture crops and efficiency ratios. Terre de liens, a French association functioning as a community trust for farms, facilitates access to the land & tightens use of the land to agroecological practices. Since 2016 they managed to preserve in this way 6400 ha that would have otherwise ended up in urban concreting or big agribusiness hands.
But in my opinion, it rests on the image of the farmer we now have, an ageing population and less younger people in rural areas. What is this mix role that you are talking about, how did you come to this idea ?
On the idea of being closer to the land I’m rather thinking about my own experience as I would love to be more connected to nature as a youngish and never-been-farmer urban, meaning rather spending systemically more time in rural areas while not giving up urban life.
This doesn’t mean that I should just move to a smaller city or to a peripheral suburban area looking at my kitchen garden and cows ruminating from my window I’m rather pointing at the possibility of suburban citizens to actively participate and more profoundly be aware of the food chains that support our (urban) livelihoods.
I’m thinking for instance about seasonal work that could be taken over by workers in the city (see btw what happened with desbrasdansnosassiette during the spring lockdown) and how the city could be useful for rurals on the other hand, on top of our natural role of ‘compost makers’ which is still far from being accomplished in most cities (see the latest report from ‘operation phosphore’ for Brussels).
This would mean that in the long run we should all make time for this kind of activities to happen in a more systematic way rather than solely relying on volunteering or on governments and private companies failing to take good care of our means of nourishment and ecosystems. It would mean as well rearranging our work time as ‘fully-scheduled’ service workers (although, of course, not all urban residents are service workers) and spending more time directly or indirectly taking care of commons, i.e. the soil at the basis of our own livelihoods.
Basically we need more time for farming and it needs to concern more people as well in cities.
Paris, for instance, used to be almost entirely self-sustained within the Ile-de-France region. Le maraîcher, which means vegetable grower / gardener in French, was actually named after the Parisian neighborhood ‘Les Marais’. Paris was well known for its variety of crops and inventiveness in urban farming since the Middle Ages, see the fruit walls in Montreuil, etc.
Or cultivation under bell jars
These days the area around Paris produces solely 10% of veggies & fruits necessary for its population livelihood. In the 1900s it used to be 80%. Farmers in the region used to be 500k in 1900s, 88k in 1954 and 11k in 2010. Despite the disappearance of ‘urban farming’ isn’t solely negative as it theoretically allows for more wild green areas (meadows, ponds, forests) which are necessary around and within a city.
Long story short, I’m trying to imagine a sort of transition from being an urban ‘knowledge worker’ to a sort of a farmer/researcher that is able to contribute to small-scale farming nourishing the most diverse fellow citizens of my city. May not be the most urgent item of discussion in today’s session but this is more or less what I was thinking of when I filled in my participation form