Over a potluck diner organised by Boerengroep and Otherwise, yesterday, we evaluated the courses that we ran together this academic year. The course Food Farmers and Forks in November/December 2011 and the course Grassroots Science, from Februari until June this year. The courses were designed to give students the possibility to follow the evening lecture series as a course for 3 credits with additional mandatory literature and an essay assignment as exam. In both cases, initially around 30 students subscribed to the course, but not all students were able to finalise the course with the exam. It nevertheless gave both student organisations a steady audience of at least 30 students. However, the lectures were open just for anyone to join and in various cases there were over a hundred people participating. From the high numbers of participants and the positive feedback so far, we concluded that their evening lectures hit a nerve or a latent demand from students across study programs in this university to engage in critical thoughts on food issues.
The biggest hits were those lectures that had ‘food crisis’ and ‘urban agriculture’ in their title. Not to suggest ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ of course. Even though urban agriculture is unmistakenly a trend showing our re-engagement with food, we need more fundamental change in addition to some production in cities or more home grown activities by consumers in order to move towards a more sustainable and just food system. It seems that Dutch supermarkets pressured by NGO’s on animal welfare are finally beginning to catch up with wider societial trends and some leading examples in the food industry.
However, there is a long way to go. Both lecture series (in fall and spring) touched upon various structural inequalities and injustices such as around water rights and access, around seed sovereignity, the origin of our food, and the commodification of knowledge by vested interests (including of course universities) to name just a few. Both Boerengroep and Otherwise are dedicated to bringing food for thought for students who want to broaden their horizon.
They did a great job and are looking forward to organise more next year. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to know more about within the realm of sustainable food systems, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org