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Connect retiring farmers and new entrants
Connect private owners and farmers
A holistic policy can also associate actions by the local authority to link up priority land users and those who can support them. This is in particular the case with landowners and retiring farmers who control land that could be made available to agroecological farmers.
A huge amount of land is about to change hands in Europe. With a third (32%) of farm managers in the EU aged 65 years or more (Eurostat 2018), and many farms without designated successors, there is an urgent need to ensure that farmland is transferred to sustainable users. Furthermore, non-farming landowners should also be part of the conversation to lease land to specific users. Local authorities can provide skills and mediation to support extra-family land leases or transfers.

Linking up retiring farmers/landowners and potential users

Helping make land offers and land demands known
  • map lands that are about to “change hands” (retiring farmers, contracts up for renewal)
  • map common pastures accessible to new entrants
  • create a platform for land ads (allowing to put online land offers/demands) and investigate other ways to make data accessible
Promoting inter knowledge between new entrants and retiring farmers
  • organise cafés, annual forums, land fairs, and other meetings to bring together farmers/owners susceptible to transfer land and potential successors/new entrants
  • subsidise mentorship or internship programs where retiring farmers welcome a potential successor on the farm
  • make both parties aware of the challenges faced by the other (e.g. for retiring farmers low pensions, attachment to the farm, family issues related to transferring land…) and other ways to raise awareness
Provide tools to facilitate connections and contracts
  • make available template contracts between landowners and farmers
  • communicate about or establish schemes to promote the association of old and new generations on the farm
  • help establish conservation agreements or environmental contracts for owners who want to see their land farmed organically (notably by working with associations specialised in making these agreements)
Act as an intermediary in contracts
  • find and vet candidates (or connect with land organisations that can help in doing so)
  • provide guarantee services for contracts
  • provide lease management services (making leases, collecting rents, responding to tenants’ demands, renewing leases, etc.) (see box “Zoom on land banks in Spain below)
Good idea! Get in touch with retiring farmers in your area
Especially if you are a small municipality and know your constituents well, you can individually check on farmers nearing retirement age. Ask them how they see the future, if they have plans for the farm, and whether they have an identified successor. You can tell them if you know of young people interested in farming in the area. The goal is to counterbalance natural social links between established farmers who already know each other and the likelihood that a farmer without an identified successor will sell the land to a neighbour or existing farm.

Relevant examples: Remobilising private farmland for agriculture

Forest management through grazing
Supporting local authorities in their role of land intermediaries

Forest management through grazing: the Boscos de Pastura initiative (Spain)

The local consortium of the Lluçanès area (grouping of 13 villages) works closely with the association of local forestland owners to manage wildfire risks through extensive herding. Through the “Boscos de Pastura” project, these actors work to:
  • Mediate and promote agreements to allow farmers to graze their animals in private forests (which reduces vegetation density and fire risk).
  • Channel public investment towards infrastructure and maintenance of private forests to make them accessible for farmers, e.g. perform prior forest management actions to ensure herders can access them.
Agreements involve local authorities, the landowner association, and private landowners and farmers. The benefits are multifold, in particular helping manage forests and wildfire risks and helping some new or established farmers consolidate their business through access to grazing land.

Red Terrae: the network of municipalities working for sustainable land use

The Red Terrae network in Spain coordinates a network of municipal agroecological land banks across 40 local authorities and throughout eight regions. They reinforce the local authorities’ capacity by offering educational and administrative tools. This includes a methodological framework for establishing municipal land banks, and training local officers (DILAS, in Spanish: Dinamizadores de Iniciativas Locales Agroecológica - or “Dynamizers of Local Agroecological Initiatives”). DILAS are responsible for integrating plots in the landbank, looking for places for municipal gardens, raising resources from regional institutions to train agroecological entrepreneurs, and also mediating relationships between food growers and local food retailers.
By 2020, Red Terrae had helped identify 778 ha of land and restored farming activities on about 142 ha of abandoned lands through 57 agreements between landowners and land users. With the participation of the DILAS, they can ensure that the lands targeted will benefit the community, not just through economic gain, but through social inclusion as well. This way, there can be connections between the people working the land and other community actors, such as the food sector and restaurants, where agreements to cooperate can be easily facilitated.

Zoom on: Land banks in Spain

Key features:
  • Identifying and matching land offers and land demands
  • Local authorities acting as intermediaries between private owners and farming tenants
In some regions of Spain land ownership is highly fragmented and the rates of land abandonment are high (owners are sometimes remote, and their land is too small to constitute a viable farm). Since the 2000s, multiple land banks at the municipal or regional levels have been created. These can play different roles:
  • Generally, land banks consist of at least a website to connect landowners and those interested in land cultivation (owners can enter their plots, and farmers can register their interests);
  • Some land banks also facilitate lease transactions, by realising the contract and/or providing guarantees (paying rents to owners – who won’t deal directly with leaseholders –, guaranteeing the return of the land in a good state, guaranteeing the farmer’s right to use the land for the duration of the contract…).
  • Land banks have also played a role in the frame of “land mobility” pilot projects to reorganise parcels to create more viable farming units (these projects can include land clearing and other fieldwork to improve infrastructure). The plots of the area concerned by the mobility project are then incorporated in the land bank to facilitate contracts with private landowners.