Statement Farmers and citizens - Bottlenecks and opportunities in mutual cooperation
The need for better cooperation between farmers and citizens starts from the understanding that agriculture and society rely on each other. Whereas the link between agriculture and society was an organic fact in the mid-twentieth century due to the high representation of farmers in the total (working) population, this link has gradually and partly unnoticed very much diminished. In itself, this need not be a problem, were it not for the fact that today there is a strong pressure on the primary sector that could be removed, in particular to a large extent, by strengthening the relationship between farmers and the citizenry.A renewed partnership between agriculture and society can unlock a range of benefits in both directions that are currently not well known. On the one hand, the unique position of agriculture and the natural environment in which it is (usually) embedded makes it possible to produce education, care, social cohesion and a healthy environment for society (and farming community) in addition to food. Rising burnout rates, declining environmental quality, loneliness, and lack of knowledge among citizens about the food system make the need and support for this kind of multifunctional agriculture more obvious and relevant than ever. On the other hand, the citizen field is capable of generating knowledge, respect, support and resources for farmers and an agricultural system that is currently suffering under great pressure. This can lead to better remuneration of food production and social services, as well as a more informed and engaged citizenry in the food system, with clear benefits as a result.
However, it is proving difficult today to deepen farmer-citizen collaboration. Although there is a growing interest in food and agriculture, most forms of collaboration between farmers and citizens are still rather marginal or consisting of rather looser initiatives (open house, co-working day, event). The fact that there are not yet enough sustainable relationships between agriculture and society is also evident from the extent to which we stand primarily as consumers in our engagement with agriculture. Where the Covid lockdown, for example, brought about a greatly increased interest in short-chain products that resulted in increased sales, it was striking to see how the Fleming as a consumer had very quickly relapsed into familiar shopping habits, resulting in a large drop in sales of short-chain products.