To a heath farm and a new commons for the Sallandse Heuvelrug

Stichting Heideboerderij Nederland (SHN, The Dutch Heath Farm Foundation) works on the development of the heath farm concept in The Netherlands. At fifteen locations farmers, shepherds, nature organisations, citizens, entrepreneurs and the local and provincial governments work together on the realisation of heath farms. The SHN asked the Science Shop of Wageningen University & Research to explore the possibility of realising the Heath Farm concept at various locations in The Netherlands.

Collaboration and common ownership

The concept of the heath farm shapes the collaboration between nature conservationists, shepherds, farmers, regional businesses and residents, who together make use of the common. The word “commons” is the English term for the common ownership of natural resources. Related Dutch names are Meent, Gemeynt, Boermarke and Marke. The term Marke is used in Salland. On the Sallandse Heuvelrug it describes the forest and heather fields. These fields were farmers outfields, which were used for grazing animals, who later brought nutrients (manure) back to the stable and this was used to enrich the crop fields. In the present time we find many new ‘commons’, where we find new uses, such as for the conservation of black grouse (and other biodiversity) and almost forgotten crafts (cultural history).

Common business case and fund

The answer to the questions the Science shop received was to draw up a fictitious cooperation agreement for the Marke (commons) with conditions that the various partners must meet. The eight principles of Elinor Ostrom, for the design of a common, were taken as a guideline. The concept of the Heathfarm can provide improvements to nature, both on and around the Sallandse Heuvelrug, provided that certain preconditions are met. The precondition with the highest priority is that the different actors cooperate and develop a common business case, that is complementary to the individual business models of the entrepreneurs. Additionally, they have to establish a Markefund (common fund). This is necessary to bridge the gap between the earning capacity of companies focused primarily on production for the world market and companies which focus is on social values and long term sustainability.