Online ‘Talk with Gijs Schilthuis, DG AGRI Head of Unit for Policy Perspectives on agricultural landscapes’, 16 June 2023 at 13h CET

Online ‘Talk with Gijs Schilthuis, DG AGRI Head of Unit for Policy Perspectives on agricultural landscapes’, 16 June 2023 at 13h CET

Join us at the online ‘Talk with Gijs Schilthuis DG AGRI on agricultural landscapes’ which will take place online on 16 June 2023 at 13h CET. Gijs Schilthuis is Head of Unit for Policy Perspectives at the DG AGRI.

‘Talk with..’ is IFLA Europe project consisting of a series of webinars on the theme of rural landscapes, but in a broad sense, including other issues beyond agriculture, such as the resilience of systems, adaptation to the climate change, the soil consumption, the city-country relationship, etc.

The objective of these talks is to enhance the acknowledgement and the awareness of a wide audience about the focus role that Agricultural Landscapes play now and in the next years, facing huge challenges as the climate change, the extinction of species and loss of ecosystems.

Landscape Architects are makers and managers of places – both town and country. They deploy the skills of both science and the arts to deliver multi-functional outcomes from all land to benefit the health of everyone. The symbiotic relationship between humanity and the natural world is now widely understood.

The threats of climate change and the extinction of species requires a close examination of the way natural resources are managed. The Landscape profession is very concerned about the health of all landscapes (and seascapes). The focus for this webinar concerns public intervention on the way land is managed for food production.

Please register in advance for this event on


13:00 Welcome by Katerina Gkoltsiou, IFLA Europe President
13:10 Presentation of Working Group and series of webinars by Francesca Neonato, Chair of IFLA Europe Working Group for Agricultural Landscapes, AIAPP Italy
13:15 Introduction by Merrick Denton-Thompson, IFLA Europe Working Group for Agricultural Landscapes
13:25 Presentation by Gijs Schilthuis, Head of Unit for Policy Perspectives, DG Agriculture and Rural Development followed by a moderated discussion
Moderator: Lena Athanasiadou, PHALA Greece, IFLA Europe Working Group Agricultural Landscapes
14:00 Questions and Answers
14:30 Conclusions and closing

The Importance of Agricultural Landscapes

Agriculture covers 175 million hectares of Europe and shapes the landscape like no other activity. Diverse in every aspect, agriculture has affected ecology, the environment, culture and history, politics and economics, and, in return, has been affected by them. Agri-Cultural landscapes have emerged over centuries, reflecting the Europe’s history. Dynamic conservation strategies and processes allow biodiversity and essential ecosystem services to be maintained thanks to continuous innovation, transfer between generations, and exchange with other communities and ecosystems. The wealth and breadth of accumulated knowledge and experience in the management and use of resources is a globally significant treasure that needs to be promoted and conserved and allowed to evolve.

The Sustainability of Food Production

Across Europe there is a revolution taking place within the farming community, true farmers are instinctively turning their backs on 50 years of industrialised and intensive systems that have caused serious, unintended, damage to the environment. The pursuit of mono culture at the expense of all other living things is now recognised as completely unsustainable. The science of agriculture has been clever but no-where near clever enough – it is the science that has destroyed our ecosystems, poisoned our water and is the major cause of climate changing emissions. A new science is emerging which heralds a complete change of direction, rather than suppressing nature we are on a journey to harness the power of nature. It is now widely accepted that we have to terminate the use of pesticides, relying instead on restored biodiversity for our biosecurity. We need to terminate the use of inorganic nitrogenous fertilizers and turn our attention to integrated crop management that fixes nitrogen in the atmosphere to encourage plant growth.

We also believe that the food is life, not a good. Landscape Architects think that healthy, clean and good food can be produced only in sustainable and resilient landscapes, based on agro-biodiversity, contributing to the community’s quality of life and livelihood security, preserving the local and traditional knowledge systems, the value systems, cultures and social organisations, and taking care of an ever more fragile territory.

Although tens of millions of Euros are spent every year of public money in support of ‘fur and feathers’, nature cannot fully recover without transforming the microbial health of our soils. Healthy soils are the baseline of both a thriving environment and a sustainable food production.

Land Sparing or Land Sharing?

Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation will decline in quality unless a new focus is given to Land Sharing where all land and natural resources are managed sustainably. It is perfectly possible to produce good food in sufficient quantities in a biologically rich and resilient landscape.

People and Place

Urban based populations have lost connection with food production across most of Europe. The ‘true’ farmer often resides in family farming, the instincts of which we are losing. Reconnecting local people with food production in our urban areas is a focus for the Landscape Profession and is essential to deliver a cultural shift in food-based attitudes. Food waste, local consumption, consumption of food imports from unsustainable origins, diet and nutrition all sit beside vertical farming and sustainable management of natural capital that drive the new agenda for public intervention.

Agricultural Landscapes and Landscape Architects

Landscape architects deal with the interactions between natural and cultural ecosystems, such as adaptation and mitigation related to climate change and the stability of ecosystems, socio-economic improvements, and community health and welfare, to create places that anticipate social and economic well-being (IFLA Definition of landscape Architect). As Landscape architects, we can connect healthy food with community- driven processes and healthy landscapes. We can also create a strong narrative between public and private stakeholders to reconnect them with their landscape identity and geographical characteristics. And last but not least we can be part of the interdisciplinary team for the planning and design of agricultural landscapes for the farmers and rest of the public to live, work and experience recreation.

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