Be the change.

Why do we need ALPA, an organisation that supports access to land for new farmers in Romania grounded in agroecological principles?

In a context of aging farmers, rapid disappearance of farms, rising land prices, huge pressure from industrial agriculture fueled by multinational capital and subsidies, impoverished rural areas, and constant out-migration, there are very few opportunities available for new-comers and future farmers into small-scale, local agriculture. Family farming, peasant agriculture and traditional food are increasingly appreciated by society, yet national and EU policies are mostly catered to the opposing model of production, with detrimental effects on the natural and social environment.

It is high time that in Romania we become concerned with a new generation of peasant-farmers whose work is aimed at feeding the local population good food, and at nurturing the environment. 

A farmer comes to ALPA with the wish to be able to farm according to agroecological principles. ALPA helps the farmer to buy a farm and/or land. Either the farmer has a specific farm/land in mind, or ALPA and the farmer start the search together in the bioregion. The farm/land will be owned by ALPA as an organisation and worked and stewarded by the farmer. The farmer pays a rent to ALPA. The amount of rent depends on different factors like soil quality, harvest, realistic situation assessment and may vary from one year to the other. ALPA monitors the farmers adherence to agroecology. ALPA provides access to education and professional advice for the farmer, so she/he can run her/his enterprise successfully. A contract is made between ALPA and the farmer in which their relation and commitments are described. ALPA’ s aim is to provide long term access to land to farmers and to see their enterprises flourish. In return ALPA asks for good agroecological stewardship of the land.

We can have different scenarios:

Anna is 28 and recently graduated from the agricultural university with a masters in horticulture in Cluj-Napoca. She wants to start a CSA (community supported agriculture) box-scheme vegetable farm somewhere in the countryside not far from the city. She has a business plan, but no farm, no land and no financial resources. Anna contacts ALPA with the request to help her. Anna found a farm with 3 hectares of land for sale in a village that she likes. Together with ALPA she starts to look for donations. Anna finds friends, relatives, neighbours and future clients, who are willing to support and donate money to ALPA. ALPA receives the money and adds it to the budget for this particular farm. ALPA fills the gap for the remaining costs of the farm, paid for by the donations ALPA receives from various donors (private, governmental, organisational, other channels). The farm will be owned by ALPA and managed by Anna. Anna pays a lease to ALPA and agrees to farm according to agroecological principles. 0,5 hectare of the land had not been farmed for a long time and is overgrown with bushes, wild plants and a few trees. Anna and ALPA decide together to leave it as is for nature conservation purposes, thus creating an ecological corridor integrated in the landscape.

Leon is 26 years old and wants to continue the goat farm of his retiring father. Leon’s father has 50 milk goats, makes cheese from the milk, butchers the kids he doesn’t want to keep and sells the products locally. Leon wants to increase the herd to 150 goats. For this increase of animals, he needs access to more land as pastures and hay meadows. Additionally he would like his farm to become a biological and a closed, self-sufficient system. Till now Leons father has been buying all the food for his animals, which has been a huge expense and was not biologically grown, which means he could not sell his products as certified biological. Leons neighbour retires as a farmer and wants to sell his 5 hectares of land. Leon also knows of other people in the village who together own 8 hectares of land. He is eager to buy the 13 hectares of land, but cannot afford it and contacts ALPA to discuss the matter.  ALPA and Leon work together to find donors who want to support the work of Leon and the mission of ALPA. ALPA buys the land, Leon agrees to the agroecological conditions which are attached to the land and leases it. He can grow his business and make it certified biological without financial stress.

ALPA received 4 hectares of land as a donation from a retiring farmer who wants to support ALPA’s mission. ALPA could buy an additional 8 hectares of neighbouring pieces of land with the help of various donations. ALPA now stewards these 12 hectares and is looking for farmers to work the land. Emma and Paul respond to the announcement and fit the criteria. Emma and Paul want to farm agroecologically, have no need to own the land themselves and come with an interesting business plan.

They want to cultivate one hectare to grow medicinal herbs, and create a 6 hectare agroforestry project with fruit trees and bushes, 200 free range chickens for eggs and 25 families of bees for honey. 1 hectare will be used to grow grains and corn as food for the chickens. Together with ALPA they decide to leave the remaining 4 hectares as the traditionally farmed hay meadows which they have been for several generations, thus preserving the species rich grasslands with its many wild flowers growing in it, while being beneficial for their bees, and creating the possibility to keep a small flock of sheep which will partly serve as grass mowers in the agroforestry project and partly eat the hay from the meadow, while providing milk, cheese, meat and wool. Emma and Paul sign a long term leasing contract with ALPA, while stewarding the 12 hectares of land in a responsible and ecological manner, preserving biodiversity and providing healthy food and medicines for their local community.