Back-to-the-land and the cultivation of a renewed countryside? Exploring the scope and impact of back-to-the-land migration in rural Sweden

Last changed: 15 November 2021

The project analyses the past decades of back-to-the-land migration in Sweden— its underpinning motives, practices and ideals and discusses its relevance for understanding contemporary rural change in Sweden and for broader food systems transformations?


Society is faced with a number of challenges that demands readjustments and developments towards greater sustainability. Through its key role in food production, rural areas have the potential to contribute with solutions to some of these challenges, but today several rural areas in Sweden are characterized by depopulation with associated problems of diminishing social services etc.

However, there are also counter trends, such as back-to-the-land migration, where people move from urban areas to the countryside to practice small-scale farming, self-sufficiency and to live an alternative life. Knowledge about this phenomenon, and its implications in rural areas and on current food systems is limited. 

The study

The aim of this research project is to explore the scope, impact and development of the back-to-the-land migration in the Swedish countryside.

Important questions concern:

  • What is the scope and magnitude of the current and past decade of back-to-the-land migration?
  • Who are the back-to-the-land migrants and what kinds of motives, practices and ideals underpin the back-to-the-land phenomena?
  • What relevance do “back-to-the-land” have for understanding contemporary rural change in Sweden and for broader food systems transformations?

The project uses both quantitative and qualitative research methods and including both regression and discourse analysis. Empirically, the project work with register data, migration letters, interviews and participatory observations.

The project will contribute to the research on counter urban migration and alternative farming, and discusses the significance back-to-the land migration has for understanding contemporary rural change and food system transformation in Sweden.


Project leader

Emil Sandström, Senior Lecturer, Division of Rural Development, SLU

Project participants

Jan Amcoff, Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor at Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University

Rebecka Milestad, Associate Professor at Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Project time


External funding

Formas Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development

Related pages: