Access to land for sustainable agriculture

26 June 2013

The Soil Association Land Trust and Biodynamic Land Trust are hosting a 3-day event on Access to Land, which will take place in Bristol between 30 June and 2 July. The event is part of EU wide project with participants attending from across Europe to share stories about the sustainable management of agricultural land.

Preserving land for local, sustainable agriculture is becoming a growing issue in many parts of Europe. With competing land uses, such as urban development and infrastructure, agricultural land is declining and small-scale farms are fast disappearing. With an aging rural workforce and a shortage of young people entering agriculture, there are fears of further rural decline.

Over the last 10 years, a number of European civic initiatives have emerged to address the difficulties faced by local, sustainable farmers in accessing land. These initiatives have involved the acquisition of land through investment and donations from the public, and agreements with landowners that provide land on favourable terms to farmers.

The informal European Network of Civic Initiatives on Access to Land for Sustainable Agriculture brings together 12 organisations from seven countries. They include:
Soil Association Land Trust and Biodynamic Land Trust in the UK
Terre-en-vue and Land-in-zicht in Belgium
Regionalwert AG in Germany
Terre de liens in France
Xarxa de custodia del territori and Rurbans/Terra Franca in Catalunya, Spain
Associazione italiana per l’agricoltura biologica, Terre future, and Campi aperti in Italy
• Vivasol in Lithuania

The first day has been set up with the support of the Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS) focuses on land partnerships, a new approach that encourages land owners and land entreprenuers to work together to open up land for new business and the types of legal agreements new farmers might encounter. It will include a visit to The Community Farm to see how land partnerships have enabled a new community-owned horticulture project and a cluster of new businesses to work together together.

Raising funds to buy land is often a barrier to entry, so the second day takes place at Triodos Bank in Bristol where different approaches to funding new businesses, such as community share, co-ops and ethical banking will be discussed.

The final day, 'New futures in farmland ownership' again supported by the Community Land Advisory Service focuses on farmland ownership, whether owning land is financially viable, and how communities in France have taken real ownership of their land and food supply through the work of Terre de liens. Sjoerd Wartena, founder of Terre de liens, will tell the amazing story of how the organisation raised €22.5million and acquired more than 100 organic and biodynamic farms over 6 years.

Look out for reports and tweets from the events.

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