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.  

MSc thesis opportunity: Environmental versus/and political ecology explanations of civil war

There is a fierce debate about the origins of the civil war in Syria.

Some argue that the civil war was caused by environmental induced scarcity (climate change). Key environmental factors identified are water-scarcity and climate variability. Drought is said to have contributed to the displacement of rural populations to urban centers, unemployment and the occurrence of food insecurity with subsequent effects on political stability (Gleick 2014).

Others have argued that the relation between drought, migration and conflict is not so clear-cut (Eklund & Thompson 2017). They content that the central causes of the war were the Syrian regime’s agrarian policy and the rural poverty it produced (political ecology). The regime’s social and economic reforms cut the peasantry from subsidies, resulted in a loss of livelihood and brought large parts of the population out of the social reach of the state (Daoudy 2020).  

For this thesis you will evaluate and assess climate change and political ecology centered explanation of the causes of the civil war in Syria. Based on this reading, you are challenged to 1) develop an approach beyond the climate change – political ecology controversy or 2) assess the policy implications of both approaches. For this study, you will analyze scientific articles, reports by international organizations and NGOs, but also consider datasets of FAO and WB.

More info: joost.jongerden@wur.nl

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

New Book: Achieving Sustainable Urban Agriculture

Book cover Achieving Sustainable Urban Agriculture

This collection reviews key recent research on developing urban and peri-urban agriculture. The first part of the book discusses ways of supporting urban agriculture, from policy and planning to building social networks for local food supply chains. The chapters in the second part of the book survey developments in key technologies for urban agriculture, including rooftop systems and vertical farming. The book also assesses challenges and improvements in irrigation, waste management, composting/soil nutrition and pest management. The final group of chapters are case studies on urban farming of particular commodities, including horticultural produce, livestock, and forestry.

The book targets a varied audience: academic researchers in agricultural science, urban planning and environmental science specialising in urban agriculture; urban planners and policy makers in local government; national government and other bodies promoting urban agriculture.

More information about the book can be found at https://shop.bdspublishing.com/store/bds/detail/workgroup/3-190-83836

 

Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

inez thesis coverLast year Inez responded to a RSO thesis advert to join a research team exploring the social economy of food and nature in Gelderland in connection with several science shop projects coordinated by Jan Hassink. Inez completed her research at de Ommuurde Tuin in Renkum, and took the opportunity to further explore visual and creative methods, documenting her results in an illustrated ethnography that was shared with stakeholders at our most recent network gathering Nijmegen. Thanks for being part of our research team Inez ! 

Inez Dekker, MSc student Sociology of Development (MID) Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc  minor thesis Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink

Summary : In the last decades a growing number of alternative food and care initiatives emerged in North-America and Europe. Due to uncertain situations within current neoliberal economic systems such as the recent recession, ongoing outsourcing and environmental depletion, and alienation from production (Morgan and Kuch, 2015), these initiatives offer an alternative to an existing neoliberal model. Moreover, they inspire to create a more diverse pallet of economies alongside dominant economic and social systems. Important to mark here is that their decisions and actions are not merely led by dominant economic models, but intentionally done to create worlds that are environmentally and socially just (Gibson-Graham et al., 2013). Often these initiatives fit in an alternative economic framework where a diverse, interdependent, rich and prolific disarray of ‘good life’ are central for their economies. One of such frameworks is the diverse economic research framework based on the work of Gibson-Graham (2008) where the economy is one based on a myriad of human and non-human social relationships that go beyond capitalist economic models. While there seems to be an emerging interest for practices within alternative economic frameworks, such as in community supported agriculture (CSA) or care farms, there is an absence of how human and non-human relationships create values that form an (diverse) economy. Moreover, in conventional economic thinking, practices occurring outside current economic system remain often unrecognized and unseen, though, these are essential for an economy to exist. Therefore, I aim to strengthen a network of diverse economic initiatives focus on initiatives located in the Dutch province Gelderland. To do this, I created a visual illustration that highlights the diverse practices and human and non-human relationships in the organic horticulture business located in Gelderland called ‘De Ommuurde Tuin’. I add to the scholarship of diverse economies by describing and showing the processes that produce a diversity of values in De Ommuurde Tuin’s daily economic practices. These processes are not only led by relationships among humans but include human and non-human relationships as well. To do this, I not only use a written form, but foremost I used visual and sensory research methods that highlights relationships between humans-humans and humansnonhumans. By putting forward the senses, the visual and emotional, this research concerns the processes in daily economic practices through a study of an economy that is lived and experienced. Moreover, I make alternative and diverse frameworks of economy/is more visible for a wider public through presenting my outcomes in a visual manner in booklet form. This approach tries to display and recognize economic alternatives, which helps to connect and build a coherent and powerful social movement for another economy (Miller, 2008; Gibson-Graham, 2008; Gibson-Graham and Miller, 2015)