Ruralization: The opening of rural areas to renew rural generations, jobs and farms

With this compendium we would like to present the results of the EU research project RURALIZATION. The compendium is airned at rural development practitioners. Are you an elected official or municipal employee in a rural area? Do you work for a civil society organisation in rural development? Are you a farmer or entrepreneur? Are you involved in rural development on a voluntary basis? Or do you work for an umbrella organisation such as the farmers’ association, the chamber of commerce and industry or a municipal umbrella organisation?

This compendium was written for you. As practitioners, you know best how successful rural development policy works. Together with you, we would therefore like to find out how the results of the RURALIZATION project can be translated into policy and practice.



The Catalan Network for Nature Conservation (XCN) fosters nature conservation initiatives amongst civil society. These occur on a variety of contexts including farmland. Fostering farm transmissions with an agroecological perspective is a complementary strategy to contribute to nature conservation and rural regeneration. XCN supports the few local organisations that work on that line. This action is focused on “la Vall del Corb” (VdC), a rural area facing demographic decline, abandonment or intensification of farming activities, a lack of new entrants, and little farm diversification. Local actors are getting organised to revert these tendencies and revitalise VdC through a long-term project named “Territori de Vincles”.

Vall del Corb_XCN_Handout_HR


The Catalan Network for Nature Conservation (XCN) is an organisation that brings together XX environmental entities and local authorities. It fosters nature conservation initiatives amongst civil society, by leading actions related to knowledge transfer, funding, advising, and policy. One of XCN’s members, the ecologist association IAEDEN is active in the conservation of hay meadows, which present high ecological and cultural values. These habitats have been historically maintained by livestock farmers but they are in serious danger of disappearing due to abandonment or intensification. IAEDEN engages with landowners to ensure the preservation or restoration of hay meadows and develops research and educational activities.



At today’s prices, land purchases can hardly be amortized from the income generated by food production. Average land prices in Germany have risen 250% since 2009 to more than €26,000
per hectare. The Kulturland Cooperative (Kulturland eG) is a community of farmers and citizens who work to free agricultural land from speculation. It enables the purchase of land for ecologically operating farms that also consciously integrate themselves into their region and open up socially. For this purpose, Kulturland eG has developed a new form of collective ownership of agricultural land aimed at stewarding it across generations, a kind of modern “commons”. More than 1,000 people have bought shares in Kulturland eG, enabling 350 hectares of land to be secured for 23 farms.



De Landgenoten (DLg), Dutch for ‘fellow countrymen’, is a foundation and cooperative that aims to provide access to agricultural land for professional agro-ecological farmers in Flanders through collective land purchasing. Access to land is indeed one of the main thresholds for farmers to start, secure, expand or transfer a farm. In Flanders prices have risen by 28.7% between 2015 and 2019 with a price per hectare averaging €63,000. Acquiring land becomes harder for young farmers because increasing amounts of capital are needed and many owners are reluctant to grant new leases.

Farm Succession_DLg_Handout HR


The Terre de Liens (TDL) Auvergne association works to preserve and provide access to agricultural lands to a new generation of farmers. Operating around the ClermontFerrand metropolis, a highly pressured peri-urban environment, TDL Auvergne has difficulty finding land suiting the demands of aspiring farmers for small, irrigable, and accessible plots. Since most farms in the area are large-scale monocultures, the association imagined as an alternative solution to acquire a large holding, restructure, and rehabilitate it to allow the establishment of several small farmers. In 2017, an unhoped-for opportunity materialised as a family of five heirs approached TDL Auvergne to transfer a large land plot (about 80 ha located on the “Sarliève” periurban plain). Part of the land would be donated and the other part sold to TDL.

Farm restructuring_TDL_Handout_HR


Access to land organisations that acquire (or accept donations of) farms face the challenge of how to be “good owners” towards their tenants. While good stewardship of land can be relatively easy—using a long-term contract with good requirements concerning land use—good stewardship of buildings requires much more continuous involvement. Even in a very liberal tenancy contract, the owner remains responsible for very detailed questions with regard to maintenance and changes to the building. Many access to land organisations have made the experience that building maintenance requires lots of time, which in some cases can only be financed by higher lease payments, while farmers oftentimes remain unsatisfied with the outcome, wishing to have more freedom to maintain and redesign their farm buildings.

Farm restructuring_TDL_Handout_HR


Shared Assets works to create a socially just future through practical projects that build new relationships between people and the land. We see council farmland as a valuable but at risk public asset. Previous research we were involved in found that over 84,000 hectares of ‘county farm’ land held by local councils in the UK has been sold off over the past 40 years, and the approximately 80,000 hectares of this land that remains is threatened by the effects of privatisation and public budget cuts. If preserved, this asset and other council farmland could help meet the groundswell of interest in small-scale agroecological growing farming in England, as well as helping to address a range of other socio-economic and environmental issues.

County Farms_Shared Assets_Handout HR (1)


With 98% of farms using less than 10 hectares of land, Romania is truly a peasant farming country. One of the most valuable and important assets that small-scale farmers have in Romania are the commons. Common pastures allow peasants to raise animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats without having to purchase extra land. This grazing land may be owned by public bodies, private  organisations or individuals, but is characterised by multiple grazing rights. Although no exact figures on the distribution of common pastures are available, a rough approximation suggests that over half of the 3.4 million ha of permanent pastures in Romania can be considered common land.



Terre de Liens (TDL) is a non-profit organisation working to preserve agricultural lands and support a new generation of farmers. It owns over 250 farms, over 6000 ha, across France. TDL favours the settlement of new entrants practicing organic agriculture on these farms, renting the land through a special type of long-term farm tenancy contracts called “Environmental Rural Leases” (ERLs). These include clauses to promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices. Most often, TDL includes organic practices and the maintenance of existing agroecological infrastructures (hedges, ponds..) in the ERLs. Other clauses may be included in concertation with farmers and in compliance with the law (out of 16 possible clauses pre-defined by law).



In Romania, transfer of land property is difficult for several reasons: land fragmentation is very high (average plot size of 0.45 hectares); there is a lack of land registration in the official cadastral system (only about 59% of land registered in 2021), and land is also subject to increasing concentration and even land grabbing. According to the Romanian National Institute of Statistics, between 2002-2010, 150.000 small farms disappeared while large farming increased by 3%. A total of 12,000 farms over 100 hectares, representing 0.3% of Romanian holdings, control 34% of the country’s utilized agricultural area. In addition to these important land thresholds, the farming population is rapidly aging—66.4% of peasants over 55 years old and only 7.3% under 35—and low retirement pensions (€280 on average in 2020) incite older farmers to sell their land to the highest bidder instead of passing it on to a family member. This further reinforces the concentration tendency and lack of generational renewal.


ArticlesNew generations blog
Italian winemaking town sets example for EU rural revival
Author: Pieter DevuystAsti in Italy is among numerous towns across Europe reviving the countryside. © Claudio Giovanni Colombo, Near the north-western Italian town of Asti, known for its vineyards and sparkling white wine, Alberto Mossino helped cultivate a different crop: maize. On a farm surrounding a 19th-century villa he revived the production of Ottofile maize, which […] Continue reading
Ruralization: How can we create thriving rural places for all?
Author: Shared AssetsShared Assets has developed a zine answering: “HOW CAN WE CREATE THRIVING RURAL PLACES FOR ALL?”. This zine intends to transform complex research that has been conducted by the Ruralization Project into material that can be widely understood, celebrated and enjoyed. Continue reading
“Local Authorities Making Farmland Work for the Public Good”
Author: A new online handbook dedicated to local governments The Access to Land Network is releasing a new handbook to provide guidance for officials and staff of local governments on how to make a difference in the way agricultural land is used and shared, for the benefit of people and the planet. Local action is key […] Continue reading
European Ruralization project and the IGU – 100 Paris 2022
Author: Mathieu Nicole and Robert-Boeuf Camille, CNRSThe 100th Congress of the IGU (International Geographic Union) is an important international event, as it celebrates the 100 years of the IGU. In this context, the RURALIZATION partners from the CNRS team has proposed a session around about our H2020 project. Now we  have a great opportunity to present and discuss the research related […] Continue reading
New RURALIZATION deliverable on “Novel Land Practices”
Author: Alice Martin-Prével, Fédération nationale Terre de LiensIn 2021 six members and partners of the RURALIZATION project developed innovative actions on emerging land topics. These actions covered a wide range of topics, from the conservation of hay meadows, to creating new visions for public farmland ; from exploring new ways to own farm buildings, to creating solidarity-based land access structures. A new […] Continue reading
Innovative land practices for an agricultural transition and rural regeneration
Author: Alice Martin-Prével, Fédération nationale Terre de LiensKEY TAKEAWAYS FROM A EUROPEAN STUDY Involving partners from research, civil society, public, and private sectors, the brings a multi-actor and multi-disciplinary perspective on innovationsand good practices to trigger rural regeneration and generational renewal in Europe. Access to land is recognised as a major barrier to entering farming. The RURALIZATION project is investigating land policies […] Continue reading
Facilitating rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and successors: EU Countries’ conceptualization 
Author: RuralizationIn favor of developing a new rural frontier in the framework of Ruralization project, workpackage (WP) 5 aims to promote rural innovation by research and facilitate rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and successors. As part of workpackage 5, an analysis on rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and successors (T5.1) was implemented. Authors: Anne […] Continue reading
Land innovations to foster rural regeneration and generational renewal in Europe
Author: Alice Martin-Prével, Fédération nationale Terre de LiensIn a new report submitted to the European Commission in October [1], the RURALIZATION consortium tackles the question of innovative land practices. Documenting 64 innovative practices across 14 European countries, the study explores how a variety of actors—farmers themselves but also citizens, local authorities, rural development organisations, and others—work for a better access to land and […] Continue reading
Female Entrepreneurship in Agriculture: lessons from a regional event in Alsace, France
Author: Alice Martin-Prével, Fédération nationale Terre de LiensBy Alice Martin-Prével, from Terre de Liens   Gender is a cross-cutting topic of the RURALIZATION project, which aims to harvest potential growth that can be unlocked by overcoming traditional gender roles in the generational renewal of rural areas. In November 2019, the Terre de Liens regional association based in Alsace[1] organised an event bringing […] Continue reading
Scientific publications
Re-using vacant farm buildings for commercial purposes: Two cases from the Netherlands
Author: Maarten Cornelis Johannes Koreman, Willem Kornelis Korthals AltesAcross the European Union, farm modernisation results in vacant farm buildings in agricultural areas. This is an issue at the crossroads of rural development and spatial planning. The debate often revolves around the options of either demolishing these buildings or re-using them for residential purposes. There is less emphasis, however, on re-using vacant farm buildings to create new employment opportunities in rural areas. This article analyses two cases in the Netherlands to explore the commercial re-use of vacant farm buildings in relation to rural development. The analysis specifically focuses on governance issues, the contribution of different types of commercial re-use to rural communities, and how re-use helps in retaining or attracting young people. The findings suggest that commercial re-use of vacant farm buildings can attract new entrepreneurs, jobs, and liveliness to rural areas. This is likelier if local government efforts and local entrepreneurship align. The cases also show limitations of commercial re-use in relation to the potential for wider uptake and the risk of enhancing rural gentrification. This raises the question of whether the current planning systems can deal with the upcoming complex processes of rural transformation.
Continue reading

Y-a-t-il un tournant de la ruralité aujourd’hui en France ? Réflexions sur les mots du rural à partir du projet Ruralization.
Author: Nicole Mathieu ; Viviane de Lafond ; Camille Robert-BoeufNumerous French studies have focused on the issue of urban-rural relations, often with contradictory positions. It has been shown that the change in conception and action of these city-countryside relations takes place in 'periods' marked by 'turning points' most often linked to political, economic or environmental events beyond the French scale. This leads to an evolution in the designation of words and processes in time and space according to three spheres: political/institutional, scientific and civil society. The acceleration of problems and crises (increasing precariousness, erosion of biodiversity, climate change, etc.) and the global pandemic of the Covid-19 cannot but have repercussions on the ideal and real evolution of what has recently been called 'ruralities'. By asking the question of 'rural regeneration', the European project Ruralization gives us the opportunity to deepen these questions while taking into account the specific contexts of several countries of the European Union and invites us to reflect on what rurality is today in Europe. This paper aims to present more specifically an introductory reflection on the words of the rural in France, with regard to other European countries, in order to propose some elements of definition of rurality. In a desire to extend older approaches (Mathieu, 1990, 1998), our objective is to put into perspective, in the long term, what French rurality is today and to define its essential elements, a rurality which today seems to be undergoing profound transformation. This paper is based on bibliographical work, but also on field surveys carried out in the Manche (Granville Terre et Mer and Coutances Mer et Bocage) and in the plain of Versailles (in the Île-de-France), which enabled us to build up a corpus of several dozen interviews.
Continue reading

La régénération rurale en France : quelles pratiques prometteuses pour quelles dimensions de la ruralité aujourd’hui ?
Author: Viviane de Lafond, Nicole Chambron, Nicole Mathieu, Camille Robert-Boeuf, Hervé BrédifWith the rise of concerns about biodiversity, climate change and health crises (human and animal), interest in rurality seems to be on the rise again, both in the scientific literature and in civil society. By asking the question of 'rural regeneration', the European project Ruralization gives us the opportunity to deepen this renewed interest in France. Our objective is to identify the essential factors of this 'regeneration' of rurality in the diversity of its configurations in relation to urban spaces; a rurality marked today by the installation of new types of populations (particularly in the agricultural sector) and by specific issues of social, environmental and agroecological transition. Our paper aims to contribute to the reflection on the potential of European rural areas by developing the French case through the study of three 'promising' cases, from three different contexts (Granville Terre et Mer, Coutances Mer et Bocage in the Manche; and the Plaine de Versailles in Ile-de-France), based on surveys carried out between April 2020 and June 2021 and long-term collaborations with several local actors (in particular the Mission Locale de Granville and the Association de la Plaine de Versailles). These surveys have enabled us to bring to light three dimensions of regeneration that underline a refoundation of rurality today: young people and their relationship to the territory as a lever for generational renewal in agriculture and in rural society in general; new formal and informal modalities of collective work and networks of actors that redefine local development; nature education, whose central role favours the construction of common projects that bring together a diversity of actors.
Continue reading

Rigenerazione rurale, restanza e nuovi agricoltori. Un caso studio nel Sud Salento
Author: Silvia SiviniThe European Ruralization project ( has identified new entrants to agriculture as possible actors in rural regeneration (Kinsella et al, 2020). These are considered to be potential creators of innovation for the agro-ecological transition (Morel & Léger, 2016) as well as promoters of environmentally friendly practices and local food networks. As part of the project, 10 European-level case studies were carried out on promising practices capable of facilitating the entry of new actors into agriculture. This contribution presents the results of one of these case studies, which concerned the experience of the Casa delle AgriCulture Association and the cooperative of the same name. This is a very articulated experience that started with a group of young people from Apulia who made restancy the key to their action. Remaining is often more difficult than going, it is an act of courage that consists in getting involved and working to preserve places by giving them a new meaning. The concept of restance (Teti, 2019) is a creative and dynamic act. Those who stay and those who return, by making alternative choices and developing new relationships, give new life to places. By working on the production of a new rural narrative and realising new agricultural activities, the Association has been able to produce a new imaginary of agriculture and rural life. It has been a complex work of place re-signification, a collective 'utopian thinking' that in imagining the future has identified ways to get there and removed the status quo (Shucksmith 2018). The activities, first of the Association and then of the Cooperative, have shown how rural regeneration can be based on socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable actions; they have opened up new perspectives to people with different skills and interests, motivated to stay in the area; encouraged new entrants into the agricultural sector; boosted the cultivation of traditional biotypes and the reuse of abandoned land, with an action based on the agro-ecological model and multifunctional agriculture.
Continue reading

La Mission Locale du Bassin granvillais comme opérateur territorial : un réseau solidaire qui allie enjeux socio-écologiques et générationnels
Author: Camille Robert-Boeuf ; Viviane de LafondThis paper is based on studies conducted during the European H2020 Ruralization project and analyse the Mission Locale of Bassin Granvillais’ network. It aims to demonstrate how this network acts as a “territorial operator” (opérateur territorial in French) and promotes a new local development integrating socio-ecological transition issues. Indeed, the Mission Locale’s network is founded on solidarity and inter-knowledge within a small territory. It is structured at local level, articulating several administrative scales and bring together different profiles from various structures (public, private, associations). This transversal network works thanks to shared values and exhaustive knowledge of the territory. Built on solidarity and supported by local elected officials, it leads to actions for a better articulation between local socio-ecologic and youth issues, even if it is confronted with some difficulties.
Continue reading

Rural Experiments with the Management of Basic Resources. Key Characteristics of European Ecovillages Aiming at Partial Self-Sufficiency in Water, Food and Energy
Author: Robert SkrzypczyńskiThe goal of this paper is to provide a preliminary analysis of European ecovillages considered as rural grassroots experiments with the sustainable management of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. The article presents empirical data on the management of basic resources in 60 European ecovillages collected with an on-line survey in 2020. The results show that a vast majority of ecovillages pursue some self-sufficiency in food, water or energy, and that 50% of them seek some self-sufficiency in all three of these resources. However, ecovillages do not try to be completely self-sufficient but rather aim at achieving feasible levels of self-sufficiency complemented with local and regional cooperation. While the role of ecovillages in driving conventional rural growth is limited, they can help in guiding sustainability transitions by illustrating opportunities and difficulties of reducing resource consumption of settlement units without reducing personal and communal well-being.
Continue reading

Refonder la ruralité à partir de nouveaux réseaux d’acteurs et d’innovations sociales : Mise en regard de deux territoires
Author: Camille Robert-Boeuf ; Nicole Mathieu; Hervé Brédif; Viviane de LafondWith the rise of environmental issues, the erosion of biodiversity and climate change, rurality seems to be experiencing a form of revival, both in scientific literature and in civil society. By asking the question of 'rural regeneration', the European project Ruralization gives us the opportunity to deepen this renewed interest in France, especially since the crisis of covid-19. Our objective is to identify the essential elements of this 'refoundation' of rurality in the diversity of its configurations in relation to urban spaces; a rurality marked today by the installation of new types of populations (particularly in the agricultural sector) and by specific issues of social, environmental and agroecological transition. Our paper aims to contribute to the reflection on the potentialities of these ruralities in transition, based on the series of interviews conducted between April 2020 and June 2021 in France.
Continue reading

Cultiver, élever des animaux sur les terres de la Manche
Author: Viviane de LafondLa Manche is a special department in the context of Normandy. It has a specific identity, reflecting the importance of the coastline (355 km of coastline), the importance and diversity of the agricultural systems, and the density of the network of towns and small cities. Saint-Lô, the prefecture, and Cherbourg, the large port city, dominate the urban hierarchy. This mosaic of photos reflects this diversity of landscapes and activities.
Continue reading

1 2 3
Presentations WP6 Expert meeting 15th October 2020 Download
Farm Partnerships – a promising practice?
Author: Anne Kinsella, Teagasc – Agriculture and Food development Authority, IrelandAnne Kinsella, Teagasc economist presented to international  agri benchmark Beef and Sheep Conference participants on the Horizon EU project Ruralization, at the Thünen-Campus in Braunschweig, Germany. Participants included representatives from most EU countries and the UK in addition to international participants from countries as far afield as India, Tunisia, Kazachstan, Brazil, Paraquay, Uraquay and Australia. Teagasc is […] Continue reading