This weekend I stayed in Middelfart on the island Funen between Jutland and Zealand (on which Copenhagen is located). For many Danes, Funen represents the island you simply have to cross by highway to arrive in Copenhagen.
However, it has a really beautiful small scale landscape full of hills! The island is fairly round in shape, around 100 kilometers in diameter and is scattered with villages, old manor houses and wind shielding wood groves and hedgerows. It has a very good sea climate and one of the best soils for farming in Denmark. This is why Funen has a tradition in horticulture. It once served as the Vegetable & Fruit garden of Denmark. Whereas in many other places in Denmark and in Europe the Farm Shop was re-invented during the last decade, here it is a phenomenon which never disappeared. You can find self service shops along the roads and many of them, ranging from horticulture, to dairy and meat, organic as well as conventional, are organized in a network called Smagen af Fyn, which means something like the Taste of Funen. There are quite a number of local food producer networks in Denmark and several researchers at IFUL are studying the various aspects of these networks.
At the IFUL institute there is a lot of research and development experience with the European LEADER approach for rural development. During the previous LEADER+ programme from 2000 to 2006, Annette Aagaard Thuesen worked in the Danish National Network Unit for LEADER+ which was hosted by the institute. She is currently finishing a report for the Danish Food Industry Agency and the National Network Unit on the composition of the Danish LAG boards within the Rural Development (RD) and Fisheries programme 2007-2013 of which an English summary will soon be available.
For the Nordic countries, one of the results of mainstreaming the LEADER approach into the current RD Programme’s (2007 – 2013) of the Common Agricultural Policy is an increase in the number of Local Action Groups (LAGs) and an increased geographical coverage of areas working with the LEADER approach. Denmark raised the number of LAG’s from 12 to 55, Sweden from 12 to 65 and Finland kept its high number of 58. In the Netherlands, this expansion took place during the previous LEADER+ period and the current programme added 3 new LAG’s to the 28 of last period.
In Denmark, interestingly, the expansion of the LEADER approach led to a change in the institutional arrangements of LAG’s to secure the input legitimacy of the Danish LAG’s. Before, LAG members were, as in the Netherlands, appointed, without clear standards of entry. In this period LAG members are chosen by election and LAG’s have to be organized as associations with open and free membership, much like the Irish model. All people over 15 years living in the LAG area can be registered a member of the association and they can participate in elections. Board members are elected for two years and are to represent four groups:
– local citizens
– local enterprises and trade organizations
– local nature- environment- culture- citizen- and leisure associations
– public authorities
Like in the Netherlands, Danish LAG’s are mainly focused on the diversification of the rural economy, the so called ‘axis 3’ objective in the Rural Development Programme.
From 16 to 27 of Februari I am staying at the The Danish Institute of Rural Research and Development (IFUL) as a visiting researcher. IFUL is located in Esbjerg, at the western coast of Jutland. IFUL is an institute within the social sciences of the Southern Denmark University aimed at the development of sustainable rural areas specially focusing on business development and the population’s life condition. Whereas our group has its roots in agriculture and has broadened to rural and regional studies, this institute always had a territorial focus on rural development (working papers).
On Monday 23 of Februari a seminar will take place entitled “the rural paradigm, hardly settled!- ready to move?” The seminar is open to people from within and from outside the university with various contributors.