Land without Value? Unlocking the Zero Lease Puzzle in Swedish Agricultural Transformation

  • Anders Wästfelt Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Qian Zhang Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Keywords: Agricultural land, agricultural restructuring, land tenure, land lease, land value, Sweden


This paper investigates the drivers and mechanisms behind the zero lease phenomenon in Sweden, which is characterised by no monetary transfer between landowners and land users, and has been captured in agricultural statistics since the late 1990s. The phenomenon is examined through a theoretical framework which combines rent theory with geographical and historically contextualised views of farming and farmland tenure. We use rent statistics but focus on exploring the geographical dimensions of zero lease farmland in Sweden, mapping spatial variations of rents, the scale of free-leased fields and the geographical location of these fields both at the farm and regional level. Our results show how the zero lease is related to geographical space and ongoing transformation processes in agriculture and rural spaces over time. The paper concludes that the zero lease creates a temporal flexibility for landowners, preserves non-monetary landscape values, and creates opportunities for future farming by preserving landesque capital. This Swedish example illustrates well how, when globally integrated markets force farmers to either restructure, intensify or extensify, and old farming models do not fit the global agri-food systems, farmers find ways to adjust through spatial and temporal means. Seeing the zero lease through farm geographies may suggest opportunities and solutions for making an alternative food and farming future.


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