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the nontradgedy of the commons

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Young Crofters are gathering in Scotland!

…but I have to confess: I didn’t know what crofting meant either, and it’s way more inspiring than I’d imagined. Turns out, crofting is a system of land tenure unique to the Scottish countryside in which villages and communities share crofts— small communally managed agriculture holdings— for grazing cows and sheep and growing vegetables.

Over the course of its 200 year history, this model has done something that is, frankly, incredible: preserved the autonomy of many rural communities in Scotland over their local landholdings. In doing so, it has in many cases maintained the food security and self-sufficiency of these communities.

In late March of this year the Scottish Crofting Association organized the Young Crofters 2020 conference, which brought policy makers, organizations, and generations of crofters together to discuss a vision for crofting for 2020.

Speaker Ian MacKinnon, in his opening to the conference, summarized young crofters’ aspirations as “a new vision: making more land available for young people everywhere to use and to live from; supporting them to learn the skills they will need to make a sustainable life on the land; and helping to restore and strengthen the resilient, cohesive, caring communities that many of the elders in this room can tell us about.”

The SCA hopes to increase the number of crofts by 10,000. According to figures by the Scottish government and the SCA, there are currently 17,725 in the county, which represent 12,000 crofting households and about 33,000 individuals. In the main highlands, about 30% of households participate in crofting, and over 65% households are cofting in Shetland, the Western Islands, and Skye.

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