Saving the world – Cultivating the city: Invitation to the 14th Weihenstephan forum (21 & 22 October 2021)

How food production in the city contributes to a sustainable future

21 & 22 October, 2021 [Hybrid Event]

The industrialization of our global food system and growing urbanization not only exacerbate the effects of climate change and accelerate the loss of biodiversity, but also significantly cause the spatial and mental decoupling of food production and consumption.

Against the backdrop of the associated socio-ecological challenges, a “renaissance” of various forms of urban agriculture can be observed worldwide over the last decade, accompanied by the emergence of new multifunctional productive ecosystems in urban spaces. Especially in the Global North, the manifold forms and different dimensions of urban agriculture increasingly show potentials how negative effects along the food value chain can be reduced and how ecological, economic and social added values can be created.

The 14th Weihenstephan Symposium will therefore revolve around a provocative question:

“Urban agriculture – A trend phenomenon or transformative element for the development of resilient cities and food systems?”

To explore this controversial question, the professorship for Urban Productive Ecosystems at Technical University of Munich invites practitioners from science, business, politics and civil society to debate their expertise and experience in the form of keynote speeches and subsequent discussion. Different forms and aspects of urban production – their limits and potentials – will be critically examined and their practical potential discussed from ecological, social and economic points of view.

We invite you to participate in the forum and discuss with us – participation is open to the interested public.

Registration & Participation

Due to the current Covid-19 related regulations, the event will take place hybrid, i.e., with a limited number of participants at TUM Campus Weihenstephan in Freising (Konferenzsaal iGZW, 3G rules apply) and the possibility to participate in the full program via Zoom. Please note that registration for on-site participation is required by October 18 to allow for planning the logistics and catering according to Covid rules. All admitted registrants will receive final information and the access link for Zoom closer to the event. The event will be held partly in German (GER) and partly in English (ENG) with no simultaneous translation. It is open to all and is free of charge.

Registration for participation in presence or in digital form for both event days: https://wiki.tum.de/display/WeiFo21Reg/Registrierung+-+Weihenstephaner+Forum+2021

If you have any questions, please contact stefanie.burger@tum.de.

75th Anniversary: 40) Registration open for PhD Course on Agrarian and Food Citizenship

The PhD course Agrarian and Food Citizenship gives participants an opportunity to intensively engage with some of the major debates about the democratization of our agricultural and food practices, so that they can continue to explore and expand these debates in their own research. The main analytical lens to this democratization of agriculture and food practices in this course is that of citizenship. The course is organized as an one-week intensive discussion seminar.

Each session in this course will have its own set of required readings, which include both foundational literature and new research perspectives on agricultural and food citizenship. Completing these readings is necessary for all students to contribute to discussion during the seminar meeting. These readings will require a substantial time commitment outside of the meeting hours, so participants will need to budget time accordingly in order to fully participate in the course.

Click the link below for more information and registration:

https://www.wur.nl/en/activity/Agrarian-and-Food-Citizenship-3-ECTS.htm

75th Anniversary: 37) Pre-announcement: PhD Course Agrarian and Food Citizenship, May 6–13, 2022

Introduction

We are delighted to announce our PhD course on agrarian and food citizenship. The course gives participants an opportunity to intensively engage with some of the major debates and approaches on the democratization of our agricultural and food systems so that they can continue to explore and expand these in their own research. The course is organized as a one-week intensive discussion seminar in the week of our 75th anniversary celebration

Agrarian and Food Citizenship

Rooted in a shared belief that our agricultural and food system has produced unsustainable social and environmental cleavages, social movements like Via Campesina have called for the right of people to define their agricultural and food practices. At the same time, various initiatives have emerged that bring this principle into practice. Instead of assuming our relationship to agriculture and food to be that of a consumer making individual decisions in the marketplace, these movements and initiatives have focused on how we organize our agriculture and food practices, and how this can be done different. The aim of this course is to investigate the shift away from a consumerist perspective in which we shop our way to a better agricultural and food system (”vote with our fork”) and towards a citizenship perspective based on the right to have a say in, as well as actively shape, our agriculture and food system. Applying a citizenship lens to an understanding of how our agriculture and food system are organized implies a consideration of the power-relations and identities concealed. In addition, is raises the question how to understand “citizenship”? Various scholars (Isin and Nielsen 2008, Wittman 2009, Carolan 2017) have argued that citizenship is not a formal status, and that people establish themselves as citizens by enacting rights. In this course we will consider agrarian an food citizenship from this perspective of “citizenship acts”.

Target Group and Min/Max Number of Participants

This course is intended for students doing a research master, PhDs, postdocs, and staff members who want to expand their engagement with the democratization of our agricultural and food practices and the citizenship approach to this. In order to ensure opportunities for full discussions during the sessions, the minimum number of participants is 10 and the maximum 20.

More information about the instructors in this course and registration will follow soon.

References

Carolan, M. (2017). No One Eats Alone: Food as a social enterprise. Washington, Island Press.

Isin, E. and G. Nielsen (2008). Acts of Citizenship. London, Zed Books.

Wittman, H. (2009). “Reframing agrarian citizenship: Land, life and power in Brazil.” Journal of Rural Studies(25): 120-130.

Reply of the European Commission to the Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy

On March 11, we published an open letter to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture, and Norbert Lins, President of COMAGRI of the European Parliament  about the ‘Farmers for the Future’ (EUR 30464 EN) policy report. Signed by many academics from different countries in Europe, the letter wrote: “[W]e observe that ‘Farmers for the Future’ critically fails to make use of, or build upon, Europe’s rich academic tradition of exploring and extrapolating the wide and richly-chequered heterogeneity of its agriculture. We also observe that the report does not offer evidence-based, scientific, support that can contribute to the process of European policy making. Instead, ‘Farmers for the Future’  contains and introduces dangerous biases into the discussions and debates.” See the post: Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

In his response to the letter, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski writes “I welcome your comments, as this study precisely aims at triggering a debate about the future of EU farmers, in order to raise relevant policy questions”.

Read the letter here.

75th Anniversary: 27) From farmers in the countryside to urban citizens keeping an apple tree

The blog series celebrating 75 years of Rural Sociology often discusses farming, professional food production or the countryside. Rural Sociology’s research interest is broader than that, however. Over the years attention for urban areas and their eaters – either or not involved in food production – has grown. Hence, staff members of our group have studied urban allotment gardening, urbanites sharing food and making yoghurt, and urban composting. In sum, the city has taken its place next to the countryside as an important research area, and our research is no longer limited to the professional food producer. 

My own research in Almere, conducted in 2019, serves as an illustration. With WUR-colleagues Jan Eelco Jansma, Hans Dagevos and Jan Willem van der Schans, I studied food prosumption in Almere. We defined a prosumer as someone who grows or collects (part of) his/her own food, for instance in a community garden, by growing it in the backyard or by wild foraging. Our goal was to understand the concept in theory and practice and to clarify who is involved in prosumption and what these activities entail. In order to do so we conducted a literature review, interviewed people involved in prosumption as well as experts, and sent out a questionnaire (n=835).

The concept of prosumption fits certain processes we witness in today’s society, including the motivation to take responsibility and to ‘do it yourself’, in order to be less dependent on larger companies. Although the word prosumption is hardly used in the literature, the phenomenon of citizens engaging in food production is studied and described, for instance with regards to the shifting and partly overlapping roles of producers and consumers in Alternative Food Networks.

We were surprised by the number of respondents who are involved in prosumption one way or the other. Two thirds of our questionnaire respondents grow basil in the window sill, harvest their own apples or pick blackberries in the woods. However, the scale in which they do so is only small: the acreage respondents use for prosumption activities is limited, and just a small part of people’s diets results from these activities. Hence, people are much less involved in time-consuming activities as community or allotment gardening than in small-scale activities like having a few plants in the backyard.

We found that motivations to be engaged in food production mainly relate to the fun of gardening. People enjoy being outside and to produce something that they can eat. A few people were motivated by a distrust in the supermarket, health, and sustainability, but these motivations were for most respondents subordinate to the pleasure of engaging in a hobby. We did find that people who are involved in prosumption more often take ethical considerations into account when shopping for groceries, but we couldn’t make any statements regarding causality. 

Despite the limited scale of food prosumption activities as found in our research, the conclusion that a large number of respondents participates at least to some degree in food production, shows that prosumption is something ‘normal’, suggesting that people may not be as far removed from food production as often thought. The next step is to better understand what needs to be done to interest people more for food and the food system, and to connect to their main motivations in order to change the food system to become more sustainable.

See our published paper here and the research report (in Dutch) here.

Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy

Open letter of European scholars to (in English, French and Spanish):

  • Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission
  • Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture,
  • Norbert Lins, President of COMAGRI of the European Parliament.

Re: ‘Farmers for the Future’

Wageningen, 10th of March 2021

Dear Sirs,

In 2020 the European Commission released ‘Farmers for the Future’ (EUR 30464 EN), a Science for Policy Report, prepared by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. This policy report is intended to contribute to the further elucidation of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy which is a key element of the European Green Deal. It has, at its core, a description of 12 profiles that are attempt to categorize the likely diversity and range of professional farming styles in European agriculture in 2040. The report asks, and tries to respond to, the following question: “ Who will be the key players of the EU next generation agriculture, the farmers of the future?” Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 11) Notes from the field: Agricultural Development in Rojava and Resistance of the Third Kind

Women’s cooperative farm in Rojava (2015)

Introduction

In one of our previous blogs we discussed Van der Ploeg’s concept resistance of the Third Kind (see Anniversary Blog 7). This was defined as a resistance which resides in working practices and farmers’ fields and is expressed in the way that cows are bred, how manure is made, products are delivered. In short, it is a resistance which intervenes in and reorganizes production, reproduction and markets (Van der Ploeg 2007). In this blog, the reconstruction of Kobanî is discussed a resistance of the third kind. Continue reading

Foodscapes in times of uncertainty – blog 2

The Transformative Power of Gardening: food literacy, connection and environmentally sustainable choices during COVID19

By Jessica Breslau and Sofie de Wit

Sparked by the covid19 pandemic food supply chains have been disrupted: food is more scarce, expensive, and difficult to access than before (OECD, June 2, 2020). Simultaneously, the pandemic has increased the number of people participating in home and community gardening (Polansek and Walljasper, 2020). One of the reasons for this transition may be people losing their jobs, having less disposable income to spend on food. Additionally, as people spend more time at home due to the crisis, home gardening became more accessible. Some scholars also identified gardening as a therapeutic act that brings tranquillity during times of stress (Bratman G.N. et al. 2019). As such, the current global circumstances remind us of the therapeutic and educational potential of gardening, particularly regarding individuals’ relationships to their food and how this translates to food consumption patterns (Kellaway, 2020; Wang and MacMillan, 2013).  Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 8) Kyoto meets Wageningen, Political Economy meets Rural Sociology

Countryside excursion at the 2016 Graduate Workshop

 Introduction

The collaboration between the group of rural sociology at Wageningen University and the group of agri-food political economy at Kyoto University officially started in July 2014, when we signed a letter of intent to foster international cooperation in education and research. This was first materialised when Kyoto University invited Dirk Roep in February 2015, and Guido Ruivenkamp and Joost Jongerden in March 2015 (http://agst.jgp.kyoto-u.ac.jp/topics/report/376). Their visit to Kyoto kickstarted a series of intensive lectures given by invited RSO members as well as a series of joint workshops between the two groups either in Kyoto or in Wageningen, as explained below. Continue reading

Grow, share or buy? PhD-thesis by Lucie Sovová

October 13 2020, at 13.30 am (CET) Lucie Sovová will defend her PhD-thesis ‘Grow, share of buy? Understanding the diverse food economies of urban gardeners‘. See the abstract below. After the defence the full thesis can be downloaded from WUR Library here. The ceremony will be live-streamed – click here – but is recorded and can be viewed later as well. Lucie Sovová is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. 

Abstract
How do urban gardens work as sources of food? That is, in a nutshell, the central question of this thesis. Urban gardening and other food alternatives have received growing attention in relation to issues such as food quality and the environmental impacts of food production. However, we know little about how urban gardens actually provide food. In order to answer this question, I conducted an in-depth study of 27 gardening households in Brno, Czechia, exploring the long and lively tradition of gardening in Central and Eastern Europe. I investigated how much food gardeners produce in their plots, how they think of this practice and how it relates to other ways of obtaining food such as shopping. The results reveal that several practices facilitate food self-provisioning, such as food sharing or preserve making. I conclude that urban gardens play a central role in gardeners’ food supply, influencing eating as well as shopping habits in all four seasons.