Organic Times – first edition of the MOAgazine

 

Recently students of the Master programme Organic Agriculture (MOA) of Wageningen University launched the first edition of the MOAgazine entitled ‘Organic Times’. The magazine (Organic times online) is written and edited by MOA students and provides some insights into the programme, study and student activities and a variety of issues linked to MOA, including book reviews and organic recipes. As chair of the MOA study programme committee I have enjoyed reading the Organic Times and am proud of the time and energy the students invested in developing this magazine. It reflects the enthusiasm and commitment of this great and dedicated group of international students as well as the interdisciplinary character of the MOA programme.

First generation Farmers: values, practices and relations – MSc-thesis by Laura Genello

Laura Genello, MSc-student Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University.

The average age of farmers is steadily rising across the United States and Europe, while the  proportion of young and beginning farmers declines. Challenging  economic conditions, coupled with agricultural consolidation and rising costs, have led to a decrease in farm successions. Simultaneously, the popular media has reported on increasing interest in agricultural careers among those from non-farming backgrounds.

This emerging population of first generation farmers has largely been ignored by the  academic literature, with only a handful of studies that suggest the ways in which these farmers differ from others. This study aims to characterize the values, practices and  supply chain relations of first generation, beginning farmers (FBFs). By incorporating concepts from research on farming styles, agricultural paradigm shifts and identity, I investigate to what extent FBFs represent change in agricultural attitudes and practice. To do so, I position their farming styles between the archetypes of the productionist and agroecological paradigms. These paradigms hold specialized, commoditized and production-centric traditions in agriculture on one side of a spectrum, and ecologically oriented, community embedded alternatives on the other. I took a comparative, exploratory approach, recruiting farmers who were both first generation (did not take over a family farm), and beginning (approximately less than 10 years experience) from two countries, the Netherlands and the U.S. state of Maryland. Data collection occurred in two phases: an online survey distributed using snowball sampling, followed by semi-structured interviews with 33 participants (15 in the Netherlands; 18 in the U.S.), selected strategically to represent a diversity of survey respondents. The survey yielded 95 responses that met the inclusion criteria: 38 from the Netherlands and 57 from the United States. Most FBFs were practicing small-scale, diversified agriculture, marketing direct to consumer, and using some level of unmapped organic methods. Interviews revealed FBFs to be motivated by a search for meaningful work, and generally have a strong environmental and community ethic. These principles were balanced with a high valuation of the business of farming. FBFs faced a variety of challenges, predominantly financial constraints, access to land and labor, lack of knowledge and regulatory barriers. Their farm practices and structure were the result of a negotiation between their values and business ethic as filtered through practical constraints. The solutions they employed included small scale, low-investment configurations, direct marketing, judicious application of web-based and small farm technology, strong online and in-person networks, and collaborations to access land, share knowledge and market products. While their practices, relations and values are heterogeneous, overall FBFs represent a shift towards the agroecological paradigm.

Key Words: beginning farmers, first generation farmers, new entrants, agroecology,
farming styles, farmer identity, alternative food networks.

The full thesis From Food Forest to Microfarm can be downloaded from the WUR-Library

Kick-off Horizon 2020 project ROBUST

Recently a Horizon 2020 grant of € 6 million was awarded for a project entitled ‘Rural-Urban Outlooks: Unlocking Synergies’ (ROBUST). ROBUST has started on the 1st of June 2017 and is coordinated by Han Wiskerke of the Rural Sociology Group.

The overall goal of ROBUST is to a) advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster mutually beneficial relations.

The project focusses on five domains of urban-rural relations & interdependencies: 1) New businesses and labour markets; 2) Public infrastructures and social services; 3) Sustainable food systems, 4) Cultural connections, and 5) Ecosystem services. These domains will be studied in 11 place-based living labs: Ede (Netherlands), Tukums (Latvia), Helsinki (Finland), Mid-Wales (UK), Gloucestershire (UK), Frankfurt-Rhein-Main metropole (Germany), Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia), Styria (Austria), Valencia (Spain), Province of Lucca (Italy) and Lisbon and Tagus Valley Region (Portugal). Each Living Labs will focus on three domains of urban-rural relations. Domain-specific lessons and experiences will be shared across Living Labs in thematic Communities of Practice (five in total, each covering one of the aforementioned domains of urban-rural relations).

In each Living Lab a research organisation (university, research institute or consultancy firm) will collaborate with a local or regional authority. For the Dutch case the Rural Sociology Group will collaborate with Ede Municipality. In total the ROBUST consortium consists of 24 partners: 11 research organisations, 11 local or regional authorities and two umbrella organisations: the Peri-Urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE) and the European Secretariat of the International Network of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI Europe).

The kick-off meeting will take place on 7, 8 and 9 June in the Akoesticum in Ede. The website of the project is expected to be ready by September 2017. For more information about ROBUST, please contact one of the members of the RSO ROBUST team: Han Wiskerke, Henk Oostindie, Rudolf van Broekhuizen, Jessica Duncan and Bettina Bock.

What surprised a Polish researcher about Dutch care farms

By Ilona Matysiak, visiting guest of the Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw, Poland

The idea is quite simple: to combine agricultural production with health and social services provided to people with different types of disabilities. However, it’s really hard to imagine or understand a care farm if you have never seen such a thing. One of the most important goals of my four-week research stay at the University of Wageningen was to unburden my imagination and see them for real. Continue reading

Boekpresentatie ‘Boeren in de Food Valley’

Voor het boek Boeren in de Food Valley sprak Janneke Blijdorp met vijftien agrariërs uit de Gelderse Vallei. Door schaalvergroting verdween de afgelopen decennia tachtig procent van de boerenbedrijven in dit gebied. De overgebleven boeren zetten in op de internationale voedselindustrie of juist op ambachtelijkheid en de lokale markt. De boeren vertellen in het boek over hun motivatie en toekomstverwachting. Vaak zijn zij al generaties lang met het gebied verbonden. Samen leveren de verhalen een verrassend divers beeld op van veerkrachtige ondernemers. Eric Veltink maakte fotoportretten van de boeren en hun bedrijf. U bent van harte welkom bij de presentatie van Boeren in de Food Valley op donderdagmiddag 24 November van 15.00 – 16.30 uur in De Schaapskooi op het erf van melkveehouder Cor den Hartog, Grote Veenderweg 10, 6741 MC Lunteren. Continue reading

Farmers’ perception of opportunities for farm development – PhD thesis by Ron Methorst

methorst-thesis-coverNovember 18, 2016 at 4.00 pm Ron Methorst will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Farmers’ perception of opportunities for farm development‘ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University.

The full thesis will be available after the defence ceremony. See the Abstract below. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

Ron Methorst is affiliated at the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in Dronten (Aeres Hogeschool Dronten). For more information you can contact r.methorst@aeres.nl 

Continue reading

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Farmers’ Markets in Beijing – an impression by prof. Jan Douwe van der Ploeg

By prof. dr ir Jan Douwe van der Ploeg

Poster lecture by prof. Van der PloegAt the end of October I had the opportunity to meet a large group of social activists involved in the development of Farmers’ Markets in Beijing. I gave a short presentation in a meeting with some 150 people (see the announcement). It took place in a cinema with my Power Point Presentation projected on the screen normally used for films. The good thing was that the projected images were now up to 5 times larger than me myself. I felt reduced to the right proportions. Afterwards we had a lengthy conversation on the construction of new markets, peasant agriculture and new peasants. The nearby Farmers’ Market (that frequently changes location: it travels through Beijing) impressed me very much: it was, as it were, a perfect illustration of the discussion we had inside the cinema. Many peasants, many new peasants as well. Continue reading

Landbouw als oplossing voor illegale stroperij? Naïef en tegenstrijdig

Quote

Vandaag verscheen er een opiniestuk in de Trouw, geschreven door Paul Hebinck en Bram Büscher, collega’s van de Sociology of Development and Change Group, over de jacht op illegale stroperij:


16 oktober 2015 | door: Paul Hebinck en Bram Büscher, wetenschappelijk medewerkers Wageningen Universiteit

Internationale jacht op stropers vanuit Den Haag naïef en tegenstrijdig

Staatssecretaris Dijksma van EZ heeft financiële steun toegezegd aan de door WNF opgezette Wildlife Justice Commission om stroperij in Afrika en Azië te helpen bestrijden. De plannen zijn echter onrealistisch en naïef.

Ten eerste is het idee dat landbouw de ruggengraat is van de (rurale) economie en zodoende op korte termijn een (legale) alternatief inkomstenbron kan vormen onrealistisch. Boeren keren zich al decennia in toenemende mate van de landbouw af omdat  inkomsten uit landbouw al jaren weinig soelaas biedt voor kleine boerenfamilies om een redelijk bestaan op te bouwen. Migratie naar de stad, maar ook illegale handel in houtskool, drank en wild zijn welkome aanvullingen op een vaak mager bestaan. De staatssecretaris doet er goed aan om samen met collega Ploumen initiatieven te ontwikkelen om van landbouw een aantrekkelijke(re) bron van bestaan te maken. Onderhandelingen over een zgn. vrije wereldmarkt en de exponentiële landroof voor de productie van gewassen voor de wereldmarkt of de productie van hop voor Heineken waar premier Rutte over repte in de recente algemene vergadering van de VN werken dit echter al jaren tegen. Laat de staatssecretaris zich daar maar druk over maken en collega Ploumen overtuigen boeren te ondersteunen in hun strijd om land en redelijke prijzen voor hun waar. Zolang Ploumen echter vrijhandel belangrijker blijft vinden dan lokale boerenrealiteiten in Afrika zal agrarische ontwikkeling niet echt een alternatief bieden voor stroperij.  Continue reading

RETHINK Final conference in Brussels December 2, 2015

RETHINKOn behalf of the Rural Sociology I’m having a seat in the Advisory Board of the RETHINK: a transdisciplinary research project supported by the European Commission and funding bodies in 14 countries under the umbrella of FP7 and the RURAGRI ERA-NET. The RETHINK Final conference will take place in Brussels, December 2, 2015. It will be an interesting event with a final reflection by:

  • Rob Peters, Head Unit ‘Research & Innovation’ of DG Agri;
  • Christiane Canenbley, Unit ‘Agricultural Policy Analysis and
    Perspectives’ of DG Agri
  • Egizio Valceschini, Director of Research at L’Institut National de la
    Recherche Agronomique (INRA), representating the RURAGRI ERA network
  • A RURAGRI country representative

You can download the program here and register yourself at the RETHINK website.

For more information you can contact the RETHINK scientific coordinator Dr. Karlheinz Knickel: knickel@em.uni-frankfurt.de