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.

Exploring the integration of school gardens – MSc-thesis by Blair van Pelt

Dowtown Teaching farm in Idaho (photo the Downtown Teaching Farm

Downtown Teaching Farm in Boise, Idaho. Photo credit: The Downtown Teaching Farm.

School gardens are sprouting up everywhere these days, yet little is known about how they can be used as a teaching tool here in the Netherlands. School gardens are common in elementary schools, yet rare in secondary schools.

For her MSc-thesis Exploring how school gardens are integrated into secondary schools, Blair van Pelt has looked at 9 examples in the United States and the Netherlands where a garden or greenhouse is successfully being used as a teaching tool in secondary education. These examples were examined along practical, structural and ideological lines of questioning. What emerged from the cases is that school gardens can be used to teach, both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

Inside the greenhouse at the Sage School, Hailey (Idaho)

Inside the greenhouse, Sage School in Hailey (Idaho)

Secondary school gardens facilitate learning in a community of practice and are a microcosm of civic ecology. In addition to being a fun way to teach science and other subjects, they give students an opportunity to participate in, and contribute to their communities in a result-oriented and hands-on manner that connects both local and global social and ecological issues.

Agriculture school garden in Apeldoorn (NL)

Agriculture school garden in Apeldoorn (NL)

Additionally, it emerged that the needs, goals, opportunities and challenges of a secondary school garden are different and evolve depending on which stage of development the school garden is in; from which, a new theory sprouted.

The MSc-thesis provides an in-depth look into the nine examples of successful school gardens in secondary education and provides recommendations that are meant to provide guidance and serve as an inspiration for aspiring schools and policy makers.

For more information contact Blair van Pelt:

Foodlinks News Issue 2

The latest issue of Foodlinks News is out!

You can read about our visit to the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain where we had a meeting with the City Council about new initiatives on organic peri-urban agriculture. We also share with you some stories from members of the urban food strategies community of practice (CoP). What kind of value did they get from participating in this CoP?

Furthermore you can see a list of upcoming and past events, new library resources as well as a list of some of our new members.

Would you also like to become a member? Sign up for the Short Food Supply Chain, Revaluing Public Sector Food Procurement or Urban Food Strategies CoP!

A key characteristic of the Foodlinks project is that it brings together different types of knowledge and experience from research, policy and civil society representatives. Foodlinks organises a collective process of sharing and integrating this knowledge around particular problems of food systems. You can read more about Foodlinks on our website and if you would like to receive the next edition of Foodlinks News you can subscribe here.  

Foodlinks News

Here you can find the first edition of Foodlinks News! In this newsletter we would like to update you on the activities of the Foodlinks project and its communities.

A key characteristic of the Foodlinks project is that it brings together different types of knowledge and experience, not only from research but also more practical and tacit knowledge from policy and civil society representatives. Foodlinks organises a collective process of sharing and integrating this knowledge around particular problems of food systems. You can read more about Foodlinks on our website and if you would like to receive the next edition of Foodlinks News you can subscribe here.

Would you like to become a member of one of our communities? Sign up for the Short Food Supply Chain, Revaluing Public Procurement or Urban Food Strategies Community of Practice!

To eliminate our networking desert

How to share experiences with people working in establishing local food systems in other places? What is going on where? In Iowa, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, serves as a linking pin around building local food systems. Today I joined a meeting of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. This group is a Community of Practice of around a hundred people who meet four times a year to network, learn and share with other Iowans from all over the state, but today, there were also quite a few visitors from other states. Because it seems there is a lot going on in Iowa, compared to some other (Midwestern) states.

The Leopold center is a research and education center of ISU established under the Groundwater Protection Act of 1987 committed to systemic change in agriculture. Currently, there are three programs around the themes of marketing food systems, ecology and policy. Next to the center’s outreach through workshops, network meetings, seminars, and the like, it provides grants to researchers and educators of all Iowa universities and to private and nonprofit agencies throughout the state. These project grants, 33 this year, worth over 700.000 dollar in total, are a very important catalyst for furthering sustainable agriculture. Projects range from research on nitrogen management to improve water quality, developing alternative swine production systems, targeting perennial conservation practices, analysis of the value chain of local produce to targeting on-farm energy needs through renewable energy.

one of the fields on the Small Potatoes Farm

One of the fields on the Small Potatoes Farm

Today the center presented their ongoing work in local food. For example they are putting together a resource guide which will give an overview of all organizations and programs working in local food. We also reviewed a draft on local food procurement information about regulations around raw agricultural products. There are still a lot of myths and fears around the use of local raw agricultural products in commercial institutions, but there are no laws prohibiting direct sale from a producer to an institution.

The Community of Practice brings together various regional food initiatives. Those initiatives gave short presentations and updates on their activities before the more interactive sessions started. For example the Hometown Harvest initiative in Southeast Iowa started a feasibility study to come to a farmer owned food coop and announced a new website and logo. The Northern Iowa Food and Farming partnership shared their experience on how to set up local food distribution among various producers. And the Southwest Iowa Food and Farming Initiative is building a database mapping all local producers and potentially interested consumers as part of the first step in building a food system. The initiative in Marshall town, COMIDA also presented their ongoing work, for example their seminar with Ken Meter (see blog.)

These quarterly meetings are very important for the people working in the regional food initiatives. “I come here and hear about what others do which gives me new ideas” one of the participants said. “Sharing here is a big source of information” and, “things are changing fast now”. There is more acceptance nowadays, that whereas some continu to target the world, others actually want to feed their neighbor.