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
Not Only in Cities: Creative Activities in Rural Areas with a Case Study of Lower Silesia
Author: Krzysztof Janc, Andrzej Raczyk and Sylwia DołzbłaszThe objective of the present study is to identify rules governing the distribution and thematic structure of creative activities, using the region of Lower Silesia in southwestern Poland as an example. This empirical study is based on the data obtained from the Central Registration and Information on Business (CEIDG) as of 2018. Rural areas (compared to cities) generally display a lower level of economic activity. Analysis results confirm that craft-based ac-tivities are usually carried out outside large cities. A clear structure of specialisation among creative activities indicates that rural areas should mainly undertake activities that are consistent with the character of a particular local setting and are strongly connected with local conditions.
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Land policy for rural development in the European Union and its impact on access to land
Author: Willem K. Korthals AltesThe concentration of farmland has potentially a negative impact on planning for local rural development as it impedes access to land for other rural initiatives. Land policies in the European Union aiming to reserve lands for local communities are constrained by principles of the EU single market, such as the free movement of capital and the freedom of establishment. Especially in several Central and Eastern European member states, the European Commission has critically reviewed policies to shield lands from the single market. This paper reviews and analysis this issue in relation to the planning for rural communities. Continue reading

The role of the municipality in building territorial cohesion and cultural bridges: an italian promising practice
Author: Mauro Conti and Silvia SiviniThe paper contributes to the discussion on the role that local authorities have in regenerating rural areas and fostering territorial cohesion (Belliggiano et al, 2017; De Rubertis et al, 2019), presenting the case of Castel del Giudice, a small Italian municipality (314 inhabitants), which has developed a proactive local development strategy to address the significant demographic challenges of an ageing population and limited development opportunities. In this framework the development of agricultural production and consumption has a relevant role.
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Sustainability and Agricultural Regeneration in Hungarian Agriculture
Author: Imre Kovách, Boldizsár Gergely Megyesi,Attila Bai and Péter BaloghGenerational renewal is a core issue in European agriculture. Despite the continuous efforts of governments and the EU Council, the ageing of farmers seems an unstoppable process, accompanied by land concentration, the decrease in agricultural activity and the transformation of the European countryside. Consequently, there is a very rich scientific literature analysing the problem; a great part of it argues that the young farmer problem consists, in fact, in a number of different problems, with these problems showing huge regional differences. Hungary, as a new member state, with a heterogeneous (both fragmented and concentrated) land-use structure offers a good field to analyse generational renewal. Our paper is based on the first results of an ongoing Horizon 2020 project analysing rural regeneration. As a part of the research study, 48 semi-structured interviews were conducted with young farmers, successors of farmers and new entrants into farming. In our paper, we explore how education, access to land and family traditions influenced generational renewal and how it impacts sustainability practices.
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Irish Organics, Innovation and Farm Collaboration: A Pathway to Farm Viability and Generational Renewal
Author: Maura Farrell, Aisling Murtagh,Louise Weir,Shane Francis Conway,John McDonagh and Marie MahonThe family farm has been the pillar of rural society for decades, stabilising rural economies and strengthening social and cultural traditions. Nonetheless, family farm numbers across Europe are declining as farmers endeavour to overcome issues of climate change, viability, farm structural change and intergenerational farm succession. Issues around farm viability and a lack of innovative agricultural practices play a key role in succession decisions, preventing older farmers from passing on the farm, and younger farmers from taking up the mantel. A multifunctional farming environment, however, increasingly encourages family farms to embrace diversity and look towards innovative and sustainable practices. Across the European Union, organic farming has always been a strong diversification option, and although, historically, its progress was limited within an Irish context, its popularity is growing. To examine the impact of organic farm diversification on issues facing the Irish farm family, this paper draws on a qualitative case study with a group of Irish organic farmers engaged in the Maximising Organic Production System (MOPS) EIP-AGRI Project. The case study was constructed using a phased approach where each stage shaped the next. This started with a desk-based analysis, then moving on to semi-structured interviews and a focus group, which were then consolidated with a final feedback session. Data gathering occurred in mid to late 2020. Research results reveal the uptake of innovative practices not only improve farm viability, but also encourage the next generation of young farmers to commit to the family farm and consider farming long-term.
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Young Farmers’ Perceptions of Sustainability in a Wine Region in Hungary
Author: Adrienne Csizmady; Bernadett Csurgó; Szabina Kerényi; András Balázs; Veronika Kocsis; Botond PalaczkiEmerging evidence has shown that a sustainable mode of farming contributes to the sustainability of societies. However, agricultural modernization and land concentration have resulted in a decreasing role of agriculture in rural societies everywhere in Europe and also in Hungary. Governmental funds and agendas increasingly focus on the regeneration of rural areas with a special interest in the new generations of farmers. This paper analyses a small wine region in Hungary to explore the perceptions and activities of young farmers regarding sustainability. The paper is based on qualitative sociological research, including 20 semi-structured interviews with wine producers and other key actors of rural development in the region. The analysis focuses on generational change both in wine producer farms and in the wine region. How do farmers approach sustainability, and how does the concept of sustainability contribute to family wine production? How can generational change affect farming approaches and activities, especially changes toward a more sustainable way of farming? Our results show that rural regeneration can be understood not only as a generational renewal; it also includes endogenous development processes and new approaches targeting a more sustainable rural milieu.
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Comparison of food system transformations in a rural area and a metropolitan rural area
Author: Mathieu, Nicole; de Lafond, Viviane; Robert-Boeuf, CamilleAfter having recalled the general trends that mark the evolution of food systems since the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century (changes in production, supply and consumption), we will try to test the hypothesis that this transformation is different depending on the inhabiting mode and the relationship between town and country depending on whether we are in a metropolitan rural area (Ile de France, Plaine de Versailles) or in a department characterized by a settlement system typical of the French model of the 19th century (Mathieu 1996) with towns, bourgs and villages. This difference will be observed and analysed from several points of view: i) the evolution of agriculture: self-provisioning, on-farm cultivation, self-sufficiency, organic farming, on-farm or artisanal small-scale processing of local production; ii) the changes in commercialization systems (supermarkets, small shops, short food chains, etc.) iii) the changes in the food consumption of the inhabitants, their tastes, their expectations regarding the quality of these products (sanitary and taste) depending whether they are rural or urban, or moving between town and country. Particular attention could be paid to comparing the importance of vegetable gardens in the local food system. We will also analyse the question of food for populations that lack food, especially poor populations (isolated women, retirees, migrants) with food aid (associations, secours Populaire, secours catholique, restaurants du Coeur, food bank). We will try to evaluate the place occupied in these two territory-es by the new policy (food plans) supposed to build complementary relations between agriculture and urban policies. We will question the issue that food systems would allow us to identify different types of local society: social links, solidarity, neighbourly relations, conflicts.
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Beyond Supporting Access to Land in Socio-Technical Transitions. How Polish Grassroots Initiatives Help Farmers and New Entrants in Transitioning to Sustainable Models of Agriculture
Author: Skrzypczyński, Robert; Dołzbłasz, Sylwia; Janc, Krzysztof; Raczyk, AndrzeThe importance of agri-food systems for global sustainability calls for researching and advancing socio-technical transitions towards environmentally friendly models of farming. These transitions hinge on many prerequisites, one of which is providing access to land for farmers and new entrants who experiment with sustainable farming models. However, for socio-technical transitions in farming to be viable, access to land should be complemented with securing access to “intangible” resources such as skills, knowledge or networks. It seems that increasingly often these resources are being provided by various grassroots initiatives. The goal of this paper is to identify how the strategies employed by grassroots initiatives support farmers and new entrants in transitioning to sustainable farming models. In order to answer that question, we perform case studies of three Polish initiatives—Agro-Perma-Lab, PermaKultura.Edu.PL and the Ecological Folk High School in Grzybów—active in promoting agroecology, permaculture and organic farming. The results show a diversity of strategies employed by these initiatives that reflect the frameworks in which they operate. Considering these strategies from the perspective of transition studies suggests that they can be replicated in other contexts and potentially contribute to advancing socio-technical transitions of agri-food systems.
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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