Celebrating the Ugly Carrot in the European Year Against Food Waste

Much of the discussion around reducing  food waste has focused on the individual household consumer – after purchasing food at the supermarket. An important avenue for addressing the problem lies, indeed, with supermarkets themselves. Supermarkets have strict cosmetic standards about what they will accept from their growers and suppliers. Farmers know that fruit and vegetables that do not conform in size, shape, and colour – even if perfectly good to eat – will not be accepted by the supermarkets. In turn, supermarkets also lay the “blame” on picky consumers. (The power of supermarkets in dictating terms in their contracts with growers is for another blog post.)

The French supermarket chain Intermarché has designed an interesting and successful campaign against food waste. It is designed to raise awareness among consumers and to provide an outlet for food that would otherwise be thrown out before getting to the farm gate. Using a multi-pronged marketing approach (including cheaper prices, special branding, and recipe and product development), Intermarché is showing that even an ugly carrot can be a beautiful thing. You can also learn more about the European Year against Food Waste here.



Request for a master student interested in product development and marketing for an organic farm and macro-distillery in Wales

Glynhynod is an organic farm where artisan cheeses are produced, situated in west-Wales and managed by a Dutch family. The firm is highly innovative, applying sustainability guidelines to all their activities and producing food of high quality; several cheeses have received prices on national and international level. The family is now developing the first organic Welsh whisky and an orange liqueur at their newly established organic micro-distillery. They are looking for a master student- preferably one in food technology- who will be able to do an internship and/or thesis inWales. The student should be interested in organic, artisan food production. The student will be during his/her intership:.

  1. actively involved in developing, testing and trying out new liqueur and spirit recipes using organic ingredients and trial batches of different orange liqueurs using different ingredients and different amounts of ingredients. The student will be required to accurately measure the amounts of ingredients e.g. total weight, of oranges, orange peel amounts of sugar etc; ‘age’ the different liqueurs for 3 different periods e.g. 40, day, 50 day and 60 day infusions. The same method will be used to develop various recipes for spirits e.g. sloe gin and seaweed gin.
  2. Doing research on marketing aspects to try out the new recipes such as implementing a sensory evaluation in a real life situation where the public will be asked to judge the product. The student will be expected to develop a statistical sensory evaluation method that will determine which liqueur the public prefers and this liqueur will then proceed to bulk production.

 His/her master thesis can be focused on of the following themes:

  1. Marketing and/or gastronomy: how to enhance the supply of local artisan products in this rural area;
  2. Consumer demands towards locally produced speciality products in west-Wales;
  3. Develop guidelines for food quality and taste of new alcoholic local products
  4. Research on food safety of organic artisan products

 The student will start around the beginning of April 2012 and stay on the farm for 3-4 months in the beautiful setting of the Teifi Valley in Llandysul near Carmarthen, not far from the sea in west-Wales. The research will be supervised by a staff member of the relevant chair group and co-supervised by Ina Horlings (Rural Sociology Group). If you are interested please apply or ask for more information by sending a mail to (lummina.horlings@wur.nl) before the end of February, 2012.

Excursions Understanding Rural Development

As a part off the course Understanding Rural Development (RSO 31806) we went on a field trip to de Eemlandhoeve in Bunschoten and explored the inner-city of Utrecht. By this excursion we visited a number of interesting expressions of urban-rural relationships, from a rural and an urban perspective.

De Eemlandhoeve

De Eemlandhoeve, owned by farmer, rural entrepreneur and philosopher Jan Huijgen, can be considered as an extreme example of a multifunctional farm enterprise. The group of Blonde d’Aquitaine’s form the centre of a rural enterprise which includes a large number of activities like a farm shop, care facilities, meeting and office facilities, an education garden and even a farmer’s cinema under construction.Blonde d'Aquitaines at the Eemlandhoeve

Next of being a multifunctional entrepreneur Jan Huijgen is a well known personality in Dutch rural development, active on a local, national, international (and maybe in the near future on a global) level. The farm residents a rural innovation centre and last October de Eemlandhoeve hosted the EEconference or Europese Eemlandconference, veelzijdig platteland.

On the excursion owner Jan Huijgen told us about his inspiration, motives and future plans with his farm. After his presentation we had an interesting discussion and were showed around the place.

Local food in the city of Utrecht

The second trip brought us to a rather different surrounding; the historical inner-city of Utrecht. On de Eemlandhoeve our focus was on the rural side of urban-rural relationships, in Utrecht we looked upon it from an urban perspective.

Cheese stall at the Vredenburg MarketTogether with our guide Frank Verhoeven (see his website)  we first went to the Wednesday Vredenburg Market. On this market we visited a cheese seller linked to the organization called Dutch Cheese Centre (website under construction). The stallholder told us about some typical Dutch cheeses and the trade in locally produced ones. After some tasting we set out for the traditional bakery Bakkerij Blom were owner Theo Blom showed us around and told about his bakery, traditional products and production.  

Our last stop was a visit to the five star hotel and restaurant Karel V for a number of short presentations. In the hotel our guide Frank Verhoeven started by telling us about his ‘Boerenbox’ initiative and his vision on a more locally based production and consumption. Secondly, one of the Karel V chefs explained us about the way they work with seasonal products originating solely from regional grounds and local suppliers. Lastly, Arie Bosma, one of the initiators of the campaign ‘Lekker Utregs’, told us about the initiative to reconnect the city of Utrecht with its surrounding countryside by establishing a so called Green Participation Society.

By the fieldtrips we got acquainted with several interesting expressions of urban-rural relationships, from a rural and an urban perspective. It was a nice and inspiring way of linking theory from class to reality by ‘tasting’ real life examples in ‘the field’.

Excursions give real-world examples

Excursion 02-03-2009, Course Globalisation and Sustainability of Food Production and ConsumptionBy Zachary Daly – exchange student at Wageningen University from Guelp University, Canada.

It’s always nice to be able to actually go out and see real-world examples of what you are studying and reading about in class. During the course Globalisation and Sustainability of Food Production and Consumption we had the opportunity to visit some farms. As such it was very interesting to see and talk to two organic farmers that are involved in alternative food provisioning networks, but work in a quite different way. The first farmer, Gerrit Marsman, has a mixed farm called De Eerste with a cheese factory and home delivery service, employing about 10 persons. He was ideologically very dedicated to what he was doing, talking about the madness of the global trade in feed and food, the health problems that the use of chemicals in agriculture cause, and the problem of a short-term and money-oriented economy leading to financial crisis. The second farmer, Rene de Lange, appeared to be less ideological motivated and more pragmatic. His family owns has a brand new farm with milking sheep in national park De Weerribben, a protected landscape of high cultural and natural value. A high milk production per sheep is important to him and his wife, as well as a hygiene-proof processing unit to make cheese, yoghurt, and ‘feta’. They market their products under the label of Weerribben Schapenzuivel (sheep dairy), through a wholesaler, to organic food shops all over The Netherlands, and even for export.

Collective approach to farmer marketing – recommendations

Dutch Initiative Van Eigen ErfRecently our rural sociology group finished an European research project on collective farmers marketing initiatives. The COFAMI project identified a broad set of enabling and limiting factors to explain the emergence of and dynamics within farmers’ driven collective action and developed a methodology to assess their impacts on different types of territorial capital assets. Empirial material from Italy, Germany, Latvia, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland and The Netherlands covers collective farmers initiatives in fields as high quality food production, provision of new rural goods and services and region branding. A summary of recommendations, reports and other project material can be downloaded from www.cofami.org.