What we are learning about re-ruralisation ? Food is only part of the story

Hello! Here is a summary of an inspiring conversation with 18 people during the event: How to bring back human potential to rural areas? . No matter if you participated or not, tell us: how do you think the questions below can be answered? Let’s figure it out together.

@Nadia: I come from a farming family in an isolated part of Sudan. There I saw that there’s a need to be connected with others, through social relations. I would like to understand what it’s like in Europe.

Marcello: Professor at Univ of Cassino, teacher of entrepreneurship and rural development. Focuses on localised rural ecosystem and entrepreneurial attitude - how to make the rural viable. How to make viable rural areas means to take into account the different rural areas, we cannot speak about just one type of area, but we can also think of rural peri urban and rural remote.

Christiana: In Southern Greece nearby Sparta. I want to prototype a village that gathers data about ESG (to help ESG managers) to revitalise the village and attract people in entrepreneurship with bioeconomy - this is what Meraki people is all about. [Video intro.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvfHdgtcnqI Το όραμα)

@Emblotka123 (Adria) member in food cooperative in Warsaw. Started because she wanted to have access to quality food. Has plans to move to a rural area, with other people, become farmers and show people that there are alternatives to living in cities and it is possible to earn money as a farmer. ‘The problem in Poland is that we don’t have good education when it comes to agriculture, so people who want to be small farmers don’t have good knowledge. In university what is taught is only for big scale agriculture.’

@irene_1: Phd student and since 5 years grew interest in herbology and the production of herbal plants. Based in Brussels. There is a lot going on in urban agriculture, but feels that having this double personality as a service/ knowledge worker and a second life of having your hands in the ground is not very easy to do. ‘At some point I feel I should choose between the two careers’, but it is hard to see how groups of people are forming and having a conscience.

@aleks.jaszczyk: in Poland, in a rural area and community called Kooperatywa Izerska. In this area there is a lot of new immigration from the cities, because the land for the past years was quite cheap to buy. There was this fashion to have an old style house in the rural areas. It goes with food sovereignty movement and trying to keep the quality of food in this area, keeping the seeds, and setting up a food bank.

@Dragan_Jonic: involved in ecological activism, which is connected with food development. Lives in Belgrade, and for a long time was involved in a community garden. Reading that there are no smallholder farmers in the US, everyone is involved in big agri, and he realised that Europe is a completely different world.

@thom_stewart: manages a coop with people with mental health difficulties - service design for Irish Health services. The community has tried to develop an ecologically regenerative Community Land Trust. We have agreement for 2 sites - in the middle of Ireland for an ecological community and another urban site. We are doing a baseline study for biodiversity, carbon, water drainage etc for the 30 acre site.

@Alessandro: grew up in Tuscany, in the countryside. ‘I knew nothing else than people doing their own farming, going hunting. The pullback to that kind of life is a lifestyle choice, the real focal point for me is the need for a tight community around your family. I’m trying to create this communal experiences in Armenia.’

Robert: President of Polish Climate Forum. ‘We did absolutely everything necessary to stop climate change. We promote permaculture gardens and try to build a clusterised society of people who grow/buy their own food relatively cheaply and easily’

@federico_monaco: sociologist and researcher at Uni of Parma. Moved from the capital because he felt that moving to a smaller city was the way to be closer to nature. ‘It’s hard to explain to people that there is a connection between food and where it is produced. We need new words, new idioms to be spoken to get people to get new categories to face this. With a small movement here, we are trying to feed ourselves in the context of urban culture. It’s hard to change the way people think. People think ‘when I buy organic it costs more than in the supermarket’’

@Slow_Karolina: Living in Poland, PhD in Krakow, writing a low key study on food sovereignty! Before, she was working in International law, and now in food law. Supporting international producers (from Sicily) to import them to Poland. I’m interested in finding solutions for organic farmers.

1. When you talk to economists, a most difficult thing is that the experiences of ecovillages is that the core business is not food production, but maybe that and other things, like research, or community cooperatives, or charities. Is it true that we can produce food, but not make it our whole business?

@johncoate: If you have to sell directly everything you are producing, then you have a serious challenge. Some of it can be simply teaching people to do things.
Jasen: I wouldn’t personally rely only on agriculture, climate changes and there is instability. I believe in flexibility. But I know many people around the world who are only doing farming, but they are also innovative, they use some automation, or produce high margin goods etc.

@FrankDieters: In the Netherlands, we try to reconnect agriculture with new rural areas and populations - you have a city with the immediate rural area next to it. We see that the city completely turns its back to rural areas, which creates a divide. You indeed have to look further than the just agriculture business, you have to revitalise the whole community, reconstruct relationships in those communities, and then you can have a viable, more local economic system. Are there crossovers in business models and empowering a community to work together i.e. agricultors and people who work in cities, but live rural?

2. How viable is rural life and especially re-urbanisation? And what kind of effects can it bring?

Marcello: Rural entrepreneurship and community initiatives are important also for countries in development, not only in the West.

Frank Dieters: The rural areas are so much more than just a place where our food comes from. It is the rural areas that are essential for our climate adaptation, our health (recreational), watersystems, biosystems, etc. There are those challenges that tie the different worlds together.

3. Do you think that the rural policy plays a role in that? How to become aware that a policy provision is available? Are we sure that these policies are targeting people who really need it?

Thom: My principal interests in re-rurbanization are a: epidemiological risk and b: personal experience of improved mental health from living rurally. Noemi: this is so underrated and invisible when you’re in the rabbit wheel, or what it’s called

John Coate: I moved from urban to rural, but made sure there was broadband to the house. Without it, it won’t work.

Thom Stewart: I’m curious around quantification of those benefits. Metrics on the co-benefits of health/carbon/biodiversity of regenerative agricultural approaches, along with more conventional community economic indicators

Angelo: the rural policy is intended to be part of a farming policy. Farmers think that it is for them, but it should be multifunctional, because it’s a territorial approach. You are operating on space, maps, not sectors. So the farming policy is not rural enough, in my view.

Frank Dieters: Agree, but there are possibilities. You have the Interreg projects, and the Leader projects.

Jasen: I worked for years in rural development, mostly in LEADER and regional development related funds. I did help a few organisations with a social cohesion fund as well. In Croatia we are fully focused on revitalising rural areas by giving all info to rural dwellers and by functioning specifically in rural areas only. Nobody focuses on attracting urban dwellers TO rural areas with programs in cities or workshops to actually show the potential to the urban dwellers as well. The issue there is, after a certain point, the emigration from a community cannot be reversed because the critical mass of human potential is no longer there.

Dragan M. Jonić: I see the question about the viability of rural life only now. IMO, it includes telling people blandly they’re fried if they go on living in big cities where you can cut the air in cubes.

4. How to go about building a rural community and what attracts people to it?

Coming up! A separate conversation with @aleks.jaszczyk

5. Broadband as a human right, like water. Are there programs and workshops in cities to attract people? We talked about the need for broadband, but also cultural activities and infrastructure.

Irene: I would have liked to contribute more on ideas of hybridity of urban-rural and how seasonal work and public urban policy on food sovereignty could try and reconcile the two, I will follow up on the platform! cheers everyone and thanks for the session!

Jasen : alright, i would gladly push for that in Croatia if there are some good practices

Noemi: But how is this different than digitized ecovillages? It’s just on a larger scale?

@aleks.jaszczyk: I would also hear about this migrating to rural workshops more :smiley: We have reasonable positive remains from comunist times: allotment gardens in larger cities, there are workshops on how to manage such a garden ecologically, probably maybe indirectly convincing people that they would like more of their land.

Thom Stewart : Notable that CloughJordan is within a preexisting village - infrastructure in place - as opposed to truly rural

Noemi : I’m not sure it’s about money - for many my generation : it’s emancipation values, what we associate with culture and intellect. That’s a major roadblock to deciding to move out of the city.

@Dragan_Jonic to @jasen_lakic increasing number of people are realising that, in Serbia. We’ve recently had a spike in prices of rural/peri-urban properties. It will be interesting to see how it unrolls. Most of them are mimicking the suburban way of life. But if at least 10% of them start gardening, that’s quite a lot.

@johncoate: also maybe fewer manufacturing jobs in the city now. certainly true for the USA.

Jasen : I expect a lot of bankruptcies in Croatia as of next year and people moving back to rural as well, due to lower living cost/higher self reliance

Ale: I would say what Robert is saying- it is also a bit more dispersed sprawling city - making more chaos in the suburban space without managing land in a sustainable way.