Convergence of food social movements, IRSA reflection 1

In Lisbon, Portugal, the World Congress of Rural Sociology is currently on. It is a stimulating week with researchers from all over the world in plenary sessions as well as smaller parallel groups where results and concepts are presented and discussed. While listening to some presentations, I had to think of the book “Food Movements Unite!” edited by Eric Holt-Giménez. Leaders of the food sovereignty movement talk about the future of the movement and about the need to unite. From the academic work currently presented, there seems to be hopeful news that this is happening. Patricia Allen explained how there is “basket of social movements in convergence” around food and agriculture in the US currently. Whereas the Sustainable Agriculture coalition would talk about environmental degradation and profitability of farm enterprises and certainly not about food security and social justice in a wider sense, this move is now being made. This makes linkages possible with the Community Food Security Movement. To describe this development, Patricia used the metaphor of a tree trunk with a non-negotiable core and branches with leaves of slightly different colour. Continue reading

WG on ‘Civic Food Networks’ at conferences ‘Ag in an Urbanizing Society’ IFSA 2012 and IRSA 2012

As follow-up of the successful Working Group on “New Forms of Consumer Engagement in Food Networks: Diversity, Mechanisms & Dynamics” that was held at the ESRS Conference in Chania, Crete last August 2011, we will organize Working Groups on similar topics at different scientific events in the coming year. The different scientific events for which WGs are organised are the following. For specific details see links:

1. International Conference “Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society” on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations, 1-4 April 2012 in Wageningen, The Netherlands, Working Group 3 “Exploring ‘civic food networks’ and their role in enabling sustainable urban food systems”, convened by Petra Derkzen, Cornelia Flora, Markus Schermer and Henk Renting,

Deadline for abstract submission extended to 20 January 2012. Deadline for paper submission 1 March 2012.

2. 10th European International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) Symposium on “Producing and reproducing farming systems: New modes of organisation for sustainable food systems of tomorrow” in Aarhus, Denmark, from 1-4 July 2012. Workshop 4.1 “‘Civic food networks’ as driver for sustainable food and farming systems”, convened by Chris Kjeldsen, Markus Schermer and Henk Renting,

Deadline for abstract submission extended to 3 January 2012. Deadline for paper submission 1 March 2012

3. XIII World Congress of Rural Sociology of the International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA) on “The New Rural World: From Crises to Opportunities” in Lisbon, Portugal from 29 July to 4 August 2012, Session number 64 “New Forms of Consumer-Producer Cooperation within Food Networks: Comparing Experiences in the North and the South”, convened by Henk Renting, Gianluca Brunori, Flávia Charão Marques and Claire Lamine,

Deadline for abstract submission 15 January 2012, Deadline for paper submission 15 May 2012

We propose to use the concept “Civic Food Networks” as a common denominator for the type of newly emerging food networks that we wish to explore in these different Working Group sessions. This term has several advantages compared to other commonly used concepts such as “Short Food Supply Chains”, which has mainly been used in producer-centred analysis and in relation to rural development impacts, and “Alternative Food Networks” which mainly proposes an opposition to dominant, conventional food systems and implicitly supposes that these types of networks never will become mainstream and will continue to remain marginal. Additionally, the term “Civic Food Networks” clearly expresses that the food networks we want to explore have their basis within civil society and that, rather than merely as economic actors, consumers and producers in these networks mainly cooperate as “citizens” in new forms of collective action to shape the food system. As such, they can be understood as expressions of new forms of “food citizenship” in which consumers and producers together regain control over the ways in which food is produced and relations between state, market and civil society within food governance are actively reshaped.

We have tried to ensure that the various WG meetings have a different thematic focus within the topic of Civic Food Networks so the conferences will complement each other and broaden the geographical range of our debates. We are also trying to establish a mailing list of people interested in debates around Civic Food Networks. If you want to be included in this mailing list, please contact us at or