Food relocalisation: it is not only the number of hectares that counts!

10 November 2017

This new blog by Urban Food Futures shares the conclusions of a recent paper on local planning policies to relocalise agriculture in the South of France. It looks at the issues that can arise out of a lack of mutual understanding between local planners and the farming world.

Many cities put a special emphasis on the “relocalisation” of food, in other words: in bringing back food production closer to cities. This recent article from Adrien Baysse-Lainé (Université Lumière Lyon 2/INRA) and Coline Perrin (INRA) shows that it is not only the number of hectares of land that is relocalised that counts. Cities also need to take into account the quality of that land. More widely, they need to familiarize themselves more with the farming sector in order to provide suitable conditions for farms to come back close to the cities.

The example of Millau allows us to draw a few conclusions that can be useful for any city:

First, cities should aim at preserving the more productive land in their hinterland, as when it is lost, it can prove difficult to find good quality land to replace it.
Second, they should always have in mind that it is not only the quantity of land that matters, but also its quality.

According Adrien Baysse-Lainé, who co-authored the article, this raises a more general question about how cities should tackle food production issues. Indeed, food relocalisation policies are rather new for cities, and urban civil servants usually have very little knowledge of agricultural issues. This can lead to mismatches between what cities are trying to achieve and what farmers actually need. Cities sometimes earmark land for agricultural resettlement that is not suitable, for instance because it cannot be irrigated, or current urban planning regulations prohibit building the structures – tunnels, etc. – that exploitations will need. Other examples in France have shown that cities might overlook the time that is necessary for a new farmer to settle, hence taking the risk to go too fast.

Overall, if they want to act up food relocalisation, cities need to know the farming world better. Getting these two worlds to know each other better can take time, but it is worth taking, as it will lead to better conditions for food production relocalisation.

Read the full Urban Food Futures blog


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

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