Open Space Day - Agriculture, 2022, Photo: Bob van Mol

The different programmes and projects within the Open Space Platform (OSP) teach us the crucial role of agriculture in strengthening and governing our open space. To enable us to take on that role, however, we must take the agricultural perspective into account more and investigate which types of support this sector might need. During the working session of the Open Space Platform on 4 October 2022 we further researched this.

Which are the biggest barriers and which forms of support can enhance sustainable business operations? Through conversations between cultivators, governments, and initiators of agricultural projects, we researched the challenges, opportunities, and possible concrete actions that the Open Space Platform can include.

During this OSP day several cultivators, municipalities, provinces, and landscape managers presented projects that illustrate several approaches to the opportunities that agriculture has to offer.

Through tangible cases, such as the Agricultural Plan of Aalst, Park Groot Saefthinge, Pays des Collines, the tool ‘boer-en-bedrijvenmatch’, an agricultural test space in the Vlaamse Rand and the Brussels Good Food-strategy, we worked on topical themes concerning agriculture and open space. We discussed, amongst other things, the role of (supra)local governance in granting access to farmland, the lack of and demand for an agricultural vision and the power of a collective and region-oriented approach that takes into consideration all the stakeholders in the field.

A dialogue between initiators and policy makers helped us find ways in which the Open Space Platform can overcome barriers like these.

We learned that local identity and pride can be an important force in establishing feelings of connection, and that Flanders remains a strategic region for food production. On the other hand, the link between needs in the agricultural sector and the development of a comprehensive vision is still lacking, for example within the field of spatial planning. Promising examples showed us new approaches of how to strategically unburden cultivators. The working session illustrated how establishing new business models, access to land, or the development of regional investment strategies form challenges, but at the same time entail many opportunities.

Lessons like these enrich the dossier of the Open Space Platform. As this OSP-day has illustrated, the platform remains an indispensable space for experimentation to support the agricultural transition in a bottom-up way. All aboard!

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