On the picture you see the different types of “capital” present in the countryside, as presented by Cornelia Flora. What I remembered as a common thread from the first day of the Eemland conference: the rural area is valued by many different people and for different reasons. Primary agricultural production is an important task, but not the only one. The challenge for us to maintain and manage the countryside is: How to translate these values in financial value? Either 1) into financial instruments that will enable local (or higher) government to organize some of the tasks to be done, or 2) into viable market opportunities, where rural entrepreneurs can “sell” the rural values for real money, to earn a living and hence, keep the countryside economically and socially sound.
What is central is for farmers and rural entrepreneurs to develop “antennas” for their surroundings, to detect the sentiments of citizens and other stakeholders, to spot opportunities. If these “antennas” are finetuned, and the right entrepreneurial spirit is there, any farm can -while negotiating the “license to exist” with neighbours and others- define its specific “right mix” between primary production and versatile, other functions.
What I find lacking in our debate, is market. If we are convinced that many people value “good food, produced locally”, we should be telling the supermarkets. They will be happy to sell. Why are people form Marqt, from Gijs, not here. These are inspiring examples where the rural “values” are translated into financial value. They have created succesfull linkages to mass markets. And perhaps even more important, where are the representatives of those we still need to work on, those who are still not convinced: the Albert Heijn and MacDonalds. Those who we need to seduce to cooperate with us to translate values in money.
Another group remarkably absent, are those farmers who decided that the optimal mix for them is to focus on primary production. If you would judge from the Eemland conference, you would think the entire rural area is versatilized. Which, both in terms of area, and in economical terms, is not exactly the case.