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OUR NETWORK. “ES GALLECS” AS AN AGRI-URBAN MODEL INITIATIVE

13 July 2016

The Agrarian Park of Gallecs, in Mollet del Vallés (Barcelona) is a rare example of agri-sustainability in the middle of an intensely urbanised area, showing a complex profile of activities that connect directly with the principal challenges addressed by the AGRI-URBAN project. The experience lived in Gallecs during the last decades is very useful to rethink the link between the rural and urban spaces, from which to claim the role of small and medium-sized cities as active promoters of employment and entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector.

There are many reasons to explain why the AGRI-URBAN network chose the city of Mollet del Vallés (Barcelona) to hold the project Phase II Kick off Meeting. Good accessibility from Barcelona city, strong commitment of local representatives to European projects, efficient staff with a huge experience organising transnational exchange meetings, availability of external experts and local stakeholders in order to cooperate in the activities to be developed. This alone could have justified the decision, but the key reason to choose Mollet for this Kick of Meeting is called Es Gallecs. But, what is Es Gallecs?

Gallecs is an agricultural and forestry territory of 734 hectares integrated in seven municipalities on the outskirts of Barcelona. The municipality of Mollet del Vallès hosts 61.11% of this area, almost 450 hectares. It is a flat area located 15 km north of Barcelona and included in the Plan for Areas of Natural Interest in Catalonia. In this rural space the preservation of nature unites sustainable farming practices and educational, cultural and social activities take place. The Master Plan of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona envisaged in 1968 the construction of an urban area of 130,000 inhabitants. The properties were expropriated, but a large mobilization by citizens and the arrival of democracy suspended the project. The municipality of Mollet del Vallès and the Generalitat of Catalonia signed an agreement in 1981 to cancel definitely the construction project.

Agriculture is the main activity in Gallecs. Since 2005, with the scientific and technical support of the university, organic farming has grown in Mollet as the centrepiece of a new management model. Diversification of crops and preservation of local biodiversity is further promoted. Space management decisions are taken by a public body, the Consortium of Gallecs, the Gallecs Agro-ecology Association plays an important role in farming development.

Thus, the activity in Gallecs connects to the four themes that articulate the central challenge of the AGRI-URBAN project, offering interesting experiences and know-how associated with each of them. Different stakeholders are involved in the activities that make up the social and ecological puzzle of Gallecs. The relationship with research centers such as the Agri-Food Campus of the University of Barcelona, or institutions such as the Barcelona Provincial Council, that supports the development of Agricultural Parks, can help put the project of Gallecs in a broader territorial context, besides facilitating access to networks of knowledge and promote common actions with experiences sharing the same goals.

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1. Ensuring short circuits The Gallecs Agro-ecology Association promotes direct sale of fresh and processed products in Gallecs in an agro-shop located within the Agricultural Park. All organic products produced in Gallecs are marketed under the seal of quality "Ecological Product of Gallecs" and can be purchased in the agro-shop and via the website. Some young entrepreneurs also perform educational and school programmes around organic production activities and also sell their products in circuits of proximity to local consumers. A major challenge to achieve this goal is to provide personnel and agencies specializing in technical support to potential entrepreneurs as well as financial and material assistance to facilitate their incorporation into the activity.

2. Smart land use - The access to land for small and medium farmers has been a key element of the story Gallecs. There are dozens of families who work the land and often also live in houses located within the Agricultural Park. This represents an important challenge for the future of Gallecs because at present the Consortium tries to adjust the status of these land plots to a sustainable management model that guarantees environmental quality for the space, the way of life of Gallecs farmers and consumer health. - In Gallecs there are 198 gardens, occupying a total area of 39,600 m2. Each garden has an area of approximately 200 m2 and vegetables and herbaceous species are cultivated exclusively by families. Social gardens represent a basic form of promoting access to land, offering multiple economic, health and social benefits to families who enjoy producing in them.

3. Business development of SMEs The Consortium of Gallecs together with other stakeholders promotes an intense social activity and economic revitalization around food production. Along with agricultural production, in Gallecs there is a workroom for preserves and jams, as well as a mill where flour from different cereals grown in the fields is made. There are also young producers involved in the production of eggs or biscuits, or who collaborate with other external producers that create craft beers from local varieties of wheat grown in Gallecs. The Mollet Local Action Group within the AGRI-URBAN Project can also be a very suitable instrument to stimulate contact and participation of entrepreneurs, strengthening its capacity to act and guiding the design of the Integrated Local Action Plan.

4. Public procurement The City of Mollet del Vallés promotes an innovative public policy aimed to introduce organic and local food in nursery schools of the city as well as in a special education center. It is a complex process in which the municipality needs create an original catalogue of objective requirements to evaluate the quality of the proposals. After three years implementing this experience, the municipality is starting to develop another important tool: a protocol to evaluate the way that providers are implementing the service. The municipality had the opportunity to learn about this kind of innovative procurement systems linked with school diets, after their participation in the Project DIET FOR A GREEN PLANNET, lead by the city of Södertälje in the framework of the URBACT II Programme.

INFORMATION:

Consorci de Gallecs: www.espairuralgallecs.cat

Associació Agroecològica de Gallecs: www.aegallecs.cat

Municipality of Mollet: http://www.molletvalles.cat

TO READ MORE:

- Barcelona Agrarian Parks. Moving towards agro-urban systems. Sonia Callau & Josep Montasell

- El projecte agroecològic de Gallecs. Gemma Safont

- The Food Science and Nutrition Campus in Agro-Food Urban Ecosystems. Màrius Rubiralta