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Recreational activities

    Agricultural environments do not support recreational activities as much as possible. More opportunities for that can be created when food production is no the only goal of a farm.

    Current situation

    Agricultural environments offer numerous possibilities for recreation. Making this possible is voluntary to farmers and wouldn’t have to mean tourists flooding the countryside. Recreational activities could however increase the appreciation of rural areas and food production.

    Neighbours working together

    In areas where land use is fragmented, creating recreational areas can be difficult. It is nearly impossible to create wetlands, walking routes by a river or passages for game if everyone is only concerned about their own land and their own goals. However, when neighbours plan together, great things can be achieved for everybody to enjoy.

    Below are some examples of recreational use of agricultural environments:

    Hunting

    There are about 300 000 hunters in Finland, these hunters usually know they way around the lands close by. This valuable information could be used more in environmental planning for agriculture. Land owners and farmers involved in game management are promoting biodiversity.

    There are some agri-environmental measures that benefit hunters as well. Naturally managed fields, buffer zones, direct sowing, catch crops, traditional rural biotopes management and wetlands attract game. In addition, game management can benefit rare species.

    Bird watching

    Bird watching has become more popular. Diverse agricultural environments offer opportunities to observe several species. Wetlands build for nutrient retention are a good example. Rules of public right access as well as farmer’s crops and pastures should be respected naturally.

    There is interest in farmers as well to know about the bird species on their lands but the information is not readily available to them. In the United Kingdom bird watchers are volunteering to teach farmers about the bird species in agricultural environments. This has become so popular the waiting list for a farm visit can be as long as four years! Read more the homepage of Royal Society of Protection of Birds.

    Birdlife Finland has prepared a brochure of the bird species becoming rare in agricultural environments. These include corncrake, curlew, barn swallow and grey partridge. Read more (in Finnish).

    Nature trips

    When the neighbouring areas offer beautiful and interesting places to see, there is no need to travel far. The nature near is worth visiting for everyone in living in cities or rural areas and is affordable for everyone. In addition the environmental footprint is much smaller than when flying on a plane to far away destinations.

    Recreational activities for good measure

    Recreational use of land can be the main goal of some agri-enviromental measures, or it can be a by-product that can surprise positively. For example, converting steep slopes into buffer zones can offer new opportunities for sledding, especially in Southern Finland where winters with adequate snow cover are becoming rare. The same applies for fields that are directly sowed; cross country skiing is much easier on these fields compared to traditionally tilled fields. Buffer zones can also offer a new walking route to name another example.


    Goals

    Land use planning (zoning and the choices farmers make on their lands) should take into consideration the possibilities for recreational activities. More information about the different options should be offered to farmers and land use planners.

    Wetland and traditional rural biotopes near population centres could positively affect the attractiveness of the area. Parks are not the only option for green areas. There should be more cooperation between cities and land owners to plan and implement these changes. Recreational use and agri-environmental measures could also be better combined on lands owned by cities and municipalities.

    The recreational activates possible in agricultural environments should be marketed to consumers and at the same time land owners should be given more information about the possibilities. This is closely linked to the overall development of rural areas.


    To do

    To do

    In order to promote recreational activities in rural areas more cooperation is needed between neighbours and different interest groups (such as bird watchers, hunters).  Also important is the cooperation between landowners and schools.
    Agricultural advisors should market the positive effects of agric-environmental measures to recreational use.

    Sometimes it is difficult to see the possibilities in our own backyard. Together with advisors, famers can plan the possibilities for recreational use of the land and combine that with environmental benefits and profitability of the farm.
    Adding recreational use of their lands should come from the land owners themselves, but it is also important to teach travellers about the possibilities of rural areas. For example, farm tourism would benefit financially from offering various recreational activities.