Farmland management styles and local food supply: a case-study in the northern Larzac plateau (France)

Adrien BAYSSE-LAINÉ *±1 – Coline PERRIN 2
1 Rural Studies Laboratory, Lumière Lyon 2 University / Joint Research Unit Innovation, INRA-SAD
2 Joint Research Unit Innovation, INRA-SAD
± Corresponding author:


Few studies focus on local food supply in European countries from a spatial point of view. In this paper, we aim at participating in filling the knowledge gap between farmland law and tenure management issues and local food issue. We question to what extent the allocation and repartition of land property rights can affect the use of farmland in order to meet the „demand for local food” (Feldman and Hamm, 2015). Can farmland management policies be drivers to develop local food supply? Do public and collective stakeholders play the same role? To what extent is the local scale suited to tackle the food issue with land tools? To this purpose, we propose the notion of “farmland management style”, as the local-scale institutional arrangement encompassing (i) farmers’ access to the land, (ii) the formalized relationships between land owners and users and (iii) a dominant „farming style” (van der Ploeg et al., 2009). We chose to focus on a French Mediterranean plateau located in the Occitanie Region, the Northern Larzac (500 km2), known for a variety of farmland management styles and a high-density of local-selling farmers (Terral, 2011).

Materials and Methods

We carried out a qualitative fieldwork in 2016, consisting mainly in semi-structured in-depth interviews, with farmers and people in charge of alternative (i.e. public or collective) and mainstream (i.e. semi-private) farmland management styles. We also collected a set of documents including lease agreements, ownership’s statements, reports of Councils’ deliberations, local newspapers articles and maps representing the extent of management styles. We analyzed these data through farmland rights’ repartition tables, featuring for every management style the stakeholders, their types, their bundles of rights, the way they obtained the rights and the duration of the rights. This approach is based on Lavigne Delville’s (2010) understanding of Schlager and Ostrom’s (1992) framework. To link these data with the food issue, we used a survey of the Larzac farms involved in local supply chains, we made in 2014.

Results and Discussion

In the Northern Larzac, three generations of alternative styles were shaped by the “land management regimes” (identified at the national scale by Rudbeck-Jepsen et al., 2015) and the political visions of land ruling at those times. During the 19th century, some village commons resisted to the allotment trend, but the Village Councils progressively lost control on them, as they were mostly assimilated to the mainstream style. During the 1970s, a land struggle against a military project ended up at creating collective management styles ran by farmers on 8 000 ha (one of them is presented in figure 1). When farmers retire, cooptation processes to choose successors promote small-scale and peasant farming, which can include local food supply chains. Since the 2000s, the only urban local authority bordering the Northern Larzac (Millau, 30 000 inhab.) is developing and running a small public estate in the valley floors surrounding the plateau, to provision the city with organic vegetables.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Organization of the SCTL-ran management style. SCTL stands for Civil Society of the Larzac Lands (click to enlarge)

Among the driving factors orienting the farmland management style, the most influencing for the development of local food supply is the farming style, followed by the access to the land. So, the tenure itself appears less important than its meaning and the projects depending on it. Farmland management styles are tools, which can be created or reinterpreted to answer the current demand for local food. They imply that spaces are shared among autonomous management styles. Another, “non-sharing”, policy to answer this demand is to help farmers with local food projects to access farmlands managed by the mainstream style.


In this paper, we carried out a local-scale analysis of the intertwined relations between farmland management styles and food supply chains. We coined and applied the notion of “farmland management style” to the Northern Larzac during the past decades. Several collective and public management styles coexist: they can be efficient tools to develop local food supply chains, as they allow to target a specific farming style or to secure the tenure of a specific group. Though, to answer the current demand for local food, farmland management policies could be implemented: wider opening of the mainstream management style to civil society (e.g. environmental and eaters’ NGOs), taking back control on the commons by the Village Councils, acquisition of lands by local authorities putting forward projects of local food supply.


This work was supported by the French National Research Agency [ANR JASMINN n° ANR-14-CE18-0001].


Feldmann C., Hamm U.: 2015. Consumers’ perceptions and preferences for local food: A review. Food Quality and Preference, 40(A): 152-164.

Lavigne Delville P.: 2010. Tenure security, formalization of rights, land regulation institutions and investments. For a broader conceptual framework. Land tenure journal, 1: 5-33.

van der Ploeg J., Laurent C., Blondeau F., Bonnafous P.: 2009. Farm diversity, classification schemes and multifunctionality. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(2): 124-131

Rudbeck Jepsen M. and 48 other authors: 2015. Transitions in European land-management regimes between 1800 and 2010. Land Use Policy, 49: 53-64.

Schlager E. – Ostrom E.: 1992. Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis. Land Economics, 68(3): 249-262

Terral P.-M.: 2011. Larzac : de la lutte paysanne à l’altermondialisme [Larzac: from the peasants’ struggle to the alterglobalization], Privat, Toulouse.