When land goes for sale, it usually goes to the highest bidder, hence often means land concentration and monoculture. In area of high land pressure, such as peri-urban areas, voluntary interventions from local authorities, public agencies and other stakeholders may involve buying the land and stocking it temporarily until they find a farmer better matching their objectives: preserving horticulture, facilitating entry into farming, supporting organic agriculture, etc.
Around the city of Clermont-Ferrand, the local Safer is committed to store land, so as to preserve short supply chains agriculture, to feed the urban population. The challenge is to counter both urban development which destroys farmland and the development of large crop farms, which replace small, diversified agriculture. Future farmers trying to enter agriculture locally do not have the means to fight against these two trends on their own!
The Safer Auvergne, together with Terre de liens Auvergne, have therefore pro-actively intervened to create two new farms and consolidate a third one over the past two years. In all cases, they have resorted to temporary land portage:
Pierre, fruit-trees, Etoile Farm:
Pierre farms 10.5 ha rented from Terre de liens, as well as 3 ha rented from the local municipality of Cheires. Eventually, he will farm 6 ha of orchards: apple trees but also peach and cherry trees. The rest of the land is used for the renewal of the orchard and for growing cereals (cultivated by Guillaume - below) to ensure crop rotation. The production is sold to five CSA groups, directly at the farm, during Apple Fairs and a small part as retail-wholesale.
Guillaume, mixed farming, Versant de la Monne Farm:
Guillaume farms about 12 hectares, including few hectares in ownership, some hectares as a tenant farmer (including 3ha rented from Terre de liens), and the rest in informal oral leases. He breeds laying hens, 20 sheep, has a 1-hectare orchard, and bakes bread. He sells 100% of his produce through direct sales, at the farm and to 3 CSA groups. Guillaume is still looking for additional land which would enable him to have sufficient area to become a registered, full-time farmer and thereby improve his working conditions.
Les Cheires Orchard/ Incubator:
Terre de liens is about to acquire 6 hectares of orchard, to enable future farmers to experiment arboriculture in the region, before starting their own project. The Experimenting Orchard will host 2 farmers doing their experimentation period. Pierre, the farmer of Etoile farm, will be their mentor. Interestingly, while the land was acquired by Terre de liens, the local municipality of Cheires also got directly involved to support the project, by building all farm buildings.
Further reading and updates:
https://www.terredeliens.org/etoile.html (in French)