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Farmland

Agriculture is one of the main transforming factors in the Catalan countryside throughout history. Fields, how they are divided, paths, dry stone walls, traditional farm buildings, diverse species of crops and the seasonal changes related to growing them, are some of the main features that characterise farmland, and they are all very important to the landscape in terms of cultivation, history, aesthetics and symbolism. These agricultural areas also have an important environmental function in terms of acting as connections between natural spaces.

The low profitability of farming in some areas, together with a strong increase in urbanisation, has contributed to a reduction in crop acreage over recent decades. Just sixty years ago, farming areas employed a majority of the population in food production. However, the gradual mechanisation of farm work and the flow of labour to cities, thanks to secondary and tertiary sectors, as well as the globalisation of the food sector, has resulted in farming areas being moved elsewhere. Food production has also been deregulated in favour of large multinational corporations that have caused the large-scale depopulation of the agricultural world and had a profound effect on the landscape.

Moreover, the growth of cities, the dispersion of industrial estates and improvements in infrastructure have had, and continue to have, an impact on farmland, often where the land is most fertile. Similarly, one recent urban phenomenon that has contributed to the disappearance of farmland is the construction of low population density residential areas. These come in the form of housing estates or extensions to city suburbs and satellite towns. As a result of these factors, the border between the fields and the city is ever more blurred, especially in metropolitan areas surrounding large cities, but also in areas on the outskirts of medium-sized cities and even around towns and villages.

Agriculture has shaped the landscape over time, maintaining models of farming and forests that are important due to what they produce, the type of crop cultivated, the way the land is structured, or the features associated with them.

The landscape catalogues of Catalonia have defined measures that can serve as a basis for working towards the following objectives in relation to farmland:

  • Encouraging a varied landscape that includes areas for different economic activities and uses
  • Conserving the architectural heritage linked to farming and livestock rearing (dry stone walls, farmhouses, cottages, cabins, irrigation channels, canals and ditches, etc.), as well as areas with traditional footpaths, and preserving the history of the land
  • Integrating new buildings into the farmland and preventing them from becoming banal

Encouraging a varied landscape that includes areas for different economic activities and uses

Some tools and measures that towns may implement include

  • Protecting specific areas of local farmland, due to their value in terms of crop production and their outstanding aesthetic value.
  • Valuing traditional farming divisions and features and using them as aspects to reclassify the rural and urban environments.
  • Taking care of urban boundaries and the borders of open spaces between towns, or by entry routes.
  • Recovering abandoned farmland that is not being used.
  • Guaranteeing the scenic quality of infrastructure (roads, power networks and communications networks), as well as the use of the land where it might be detrimental to agricultural use, for example golf courses, campsites and landfills.
  • Encouraging land stewardship and the participation of municipal governments in maintaining the farmland.
  • Valuing programmes that support farming activity in order to open up new options for rural development linked to educational tourism (learning about dry stone architecture, water infrastructures, etc.). A landscape that is well looked after and has character is a plus point when encouraging rural tourism, and is better for farming itself.
  • Promoting agritourism as an opportunity for additional income, and to help family farms keep running. On the other hand, it can give added value to primary products, such as wine, nuts, olive oil, fruit, citrus fruits, and vegetable garden products, among many other things, through strategies that value the countryside and different cultivation techniques.
  • Ensuring farming traditions are upheld in areas around protected spaces.
  • Guaranteeing that farming areas work as stopgaps between towns and villages and open spaces.

Conserving the architectural heritage linked to farming and livestock rearing, as well as areas with traditional footpaths, and preserving the history of the land

Some tools and measures that towns may implement include

  • Writing an inventory and drawing up catalogues of the architectural heritage linked to farmland (farmhouses, cottages, rural houses, dry stone walls, irrigation channels, canals and ditches, etc.).
  • Preserving and marking the boundaries of traditional footpaths across the land, according to their value as cultural heritage: dirt roads, cattle trails, coastal paths and so on, integrating them in urban planning.
  • Promoting comprehensive assessment strategies that amplify the tourism potential of the historical and architectural heritage associated with farmland.
  • Ensuring access to farming and agroforestry areas, so that they are seen by the public as attractive, open and welcoming areas that invite people to discover them. This means it will be possible to maintain former farming paths while adding signage and using them as tourist routes, while promoting trails to discover a landscape made up of forests and fields.
  • Promoting awareness programmes aimed at educating the public and helping them discover the architectural heritage of farms and farming history, and so they can find out more about their social, historical, spiritual and symbolic characteristics.

Integrar paisatgísticament les noves edificacions en els paisatges agraris i evitar la seva banalització

Some tools and measures that towns may implement include

  • Encouraging facilities associated with farms to be adapted to the landscape, including: barns, farms, shelters for machinery, silos, tanks, etc. that do not fit in with the countryside, employing specific techniques to adapt them to the surroundings, or minimising/hiding them.
  • Avoiding new buildings in areas that are vulnerable or that are visually exposed.
  • Aiming to locate buildings on land where there are similar buildings, and trying to encourage continuity as far as possible within the built-up area.
  • Allowing construction in specific areas in accordance with how well the buildings will fit in with the pre-existing landscape and the morphology of the urban area.
  • Building in accordance with a model and type of construction that fits in with the area, as part of a strategy aimed at harmonisation.
  • Restoring or demolishing buildings on development land in farming areas when said buildings are in disuse or have a detrimental effect on the scenery.

 

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