Matryoshka doll farmers
One of the most common problems that starting agroecological farmers face today is the lack of affordable access to land. However, this struggle occasionally leads to unexpected alliances with larger-scale agricultural practices. In the province of Gelderland in The Netherlands, the market gardeners of Tuinderij De Stroom found access to 3 ha of land within the crop rotation of an existing 100 ha organic arable farm Ekoboerderij De Lingehof. Just as a Russian Matryoskha doll fits within a larger doll, the one farm – De Stroom – operates inside the larger one – De Lingehof. The cooperation not only creates much-needed access to land for new practices, but also brings many additional benefits, such as the sharing of infrastructure (washing facilities, place to eat...) and interconnected services (purchase of agricultural products for vegetable packages, ploughing for the horticultural activities, availability of labour at peak times...)., but also closing cycles and establishing equilibriums (e.g. manure and composting, shared rotation schemes, etc.) and sharing knowledge and techniques between different generations of farmers. Moreover, this farm-within-a-farm model could be more systematically pursued as a valuable transition strategy in light of the lack of succession within farming families. Retiring farmers can build up the trust with the new entrant farmers to hand over their life’s work in good conscience, while the new entrant farmers get the time and literally, the space to acquire the experience to manage stepwise larger amounts of land.