SOLINSA project has come to an end – the results

January 31 the EU-funded research project SOLINSA has offically come to an end. A Special Issue of The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension is in preparation. Publication of the SOLINSA issue is foreseen for early 2015. For now the results of the project are available at the SOLINSA website under four subheading:

  1. The concept of LINSA
  2. The relation between AKS and LINSA 
  3. Interacting with LINSA
  4. Policy recommendations

Transition partnersHere public reports of the different workpackages are published, six factsheets, posters and two video clips made for a SOLINSA webinar in which Gianluca Brunori and Talis Tisenkopf explain what LINSA are.  These are also available at You Tube SOLINSA Project. To get an overview the SOLINSA home page offers a guided tour through the project and its results. The notion of transition partner captures well the various supporting roles towards LINSA.

3 Thesis topics offered

The Rural Sociology Group offers three interesting thesis topics for Master students of Wageningen University.

  • Gender and multifunctional farming
  • Increase in succession by farm daughters
  • Intra-European rural mobility

Interested? For all topics contact Bettina Bock: bettina.bock@wur.nl


Gender and multifunctional farming

The Rural Sociology Group is looking for a Master student who is interested in doing research among multifunctional farm women in the Netherlands. Research into the position of women in family farming started in the late seventies, early eighties. It demonstrated women’s unequal position in terms of professional recognition, payment and political representation but also stressed their importance in Continue reading

Interesting forum discussion: Urban and Peri-urban agriculture and short food chains: Lessons from the South

The SUPURBFOOD project (www.supurbfood.eu) is looking to identify experiences from the global South and North with recycling of nutrients, waste and water in urban and peri-urban agriculture, short chain delivery of food in urban and peri-urban areas, and multifunctional agriculture in urban and peri-urban areas in order to enrich South-North exchange and collaboration. We are specifically interested in innovative experiences – with a special focus on the type of business models that were applied, the role of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and their sustainability.

This specific discussion will run on the Forum from 4-30 March 2013. Continue reading

‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ Conference – new deadline for submission of abstracts

As mentioned in previous posts, an international conference entitled ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ will be held from 1 to 4 April 2012 in Wageningen. A whole range of different topics and research findings will be presented and discussed in 20 different working groups. The deadline for submitting abstracts was originally 20 December 2011 but the conference committees, in consultation with the working group convenors, have decided to postpone this deadline by one month. So if you are interested to present and discuss your research activities (or plans) in one of the working groups, please send your abstract to the convenor of the working group before 20 January 2012. You are kindly requested to use the abstract submission form.

IFSA 2012 workshop ‘The meaning of semi-subsistence farming in different cultural contexts’

Together with Imre Kovach and Catherine Darrot,  I will be hosting a workshop at the IFSA symposium in Aarhus, Denmark from the 1st of July until the 4th of July 2012.

The workshop is aimed at exploring the multiple meanings of semi-subsistent food production strategies in different cultural context. Two questions are at the centre of attention: 1) How has the meaning of semi-subsistent food production changed over time for producers, society and institutions? and 2) What recommendations can be derived from the research for policy makers of multi-state institutions (e.g. EU?). We invite researchers from diverse countries to present their empirical research in order to stimulate a fruitful discussion and knowledge exchange.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is the 31st of December 2011.  More information and a link to submitting your abstract can be found here. I hope to see you there!

Conference ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ – call for abstracts (reminder)

From 1 – 4 April 2012 a conference entitled ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society: International Conference on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations‘ will take place in Wageningen. Some time ago a call for abstracts was launched. This is to inform or remind you that the deadline for submitting abstracts is 20 December 2011. Abstracts can be submitted by email to the coordinating convenor of a working group (call for abstracts for all WGs can be accessed through this link). The following working groups have been approved by the Scientific Programme Committee:

  • WG1 Green care
  • WG2 Agri tourism: Critcal Perspectives on Dilemmas and Opportunities
  • WG3 Exploring ‘civic food networks’ and their role in enabling sustainable urban food systems
  • WG4 Rural education   
  • WG5 Environmental services
  • WG6 Economic impact at the farm level
  • WG7 Business models; farm enterprise development models
  • WG8 Entrepreneurial skills and competences: challenges and opportunities
  • WG9 Learning for innovation – new challenges in an urbanizing world
  • WG10 Regional branding; the socio-economic impact at the regional level
  • WG11 Urban, peri-urban and regional planning
  • WG12 Land-use transformations
  • WG13 What are the challenges of future urban agriculture?
  • WG14 Public food procurement
  • WG15 Consumers, multifunctional agriculture and urban dynamics
  • WG16 Multifunctionality, rural policy and governance
  • WG17 Social exclusion and poverty in rural areas
  • WG18 Migration and mobility
  • WG19 Transition approaches
  • WG20 Multifunctional agriculture as a coupled human-natural system

Conference call – Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society (new deadlines)

In June I published a post about the upcoming conference ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society: International Conference on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations’, which included a call for Working Group proposals. The deadline for submitting Working Group proposals was 1 September 2011. This post is to announce that the deadline for submitting Working Group proposals has been postponed to 15 september 2011. If you would like to convene a working group but don’t have time to write a proposal, you can also express your interest by sending me an e-mail (han.wiskerke@wur.nl). Have a look at the conference website for an overview of the working group themes that have been proposed by the scientific committee. The deadline for abstracts will also be postponed by 2 weeks to 15 December 2011.

Conference Call – Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society

A major demographic milestone occurred in May 2007. For the first time in the history of mankind the earth’s population became more urban than rural. This process of urbanization will continue in an accelerated pace in the forthcoming decades: the growth of the world population from 6 billion people in 2000 to 9 billion people in 2050 will mainly occur in urban areas. By 2050 the urban population will approximately be twice the size of the rural population.

However, this does not mean that urban areas are or will become of greater importance than rural areas. On the contrary, the urban and the rural have always heavily relied on each other and will do so even more in an era characterized by rapid urban population growth. Cities will continue to need resources such as food, fibre, clean water, nature, biodiversity, and recreational space, as well as the people and communities that produce and provide these urban necessities and desires. Hence, key questions for the next decades are how, where and by whom these urban necessities and desires will be produced and provided and if and how this can be done in manner that is considered to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable and ethically sound.

In recent years the concept of multifunctional agriculture has emerged as an important reference in debates on the future of agriculture and the countryside and its relations with the wider and predominantly urban society. This is an expression of the fact that agriculture is not only valued for its contribution to food and fibre production and the economic development of the agro-industry, but needs to be assessed according to a much wider range of social, environmental, economic and ethical concerns. At farm level multifunctional agriculture is characterized by a variety of entrepreneurial strategies and activities, such as processing and direct marketing of food products, energy production, care for elderly and disabled people, and tourism. But multifunctional agriculture is also expressed at higher scales, such as the regional level (e.g. collective nature and landscape management schemes and regional branding) and the national level (e.g. policymaking and implementation).

Due to the multiplicity of activities, the multi-scalar character of multifunctionality and the geographical contextuality of expressions of multifunctional agriculture, research on multifunctional agriculture and changing urban-rural relations is highly fragmented, disciplinarily as well as geographically. Hence, this conference aims to advance the scientific state of the art in research on multifunctional agriculture and urban-rural relations by bringing together scholars of different disciplines (sociology, economics, spatial planning, land use planning, regional planning, urban planning, crop sciences, animal sciences, soil sciences, architecture, etc…) from all parts of the world.

Working group themes
The conference facilities allow for a maximum of 21 parallel working group sessions. The scientific committee has proposed 21 working group themes (see http://www.agricultureinanurbanizingsociety.com/UK/Working+group+themes/)   and is inviting prospective working group convenors to submit a short (max 500 words) call text for the theme they would like to convene. Proposals for a working group call text can be send to the chair of the scientific committee by email (han.wiskerke@wur.nl) before the 1st of September 2011. The deadline for submission of abstracts will be 1st of December 2011. Abstracts will have to be submitted to the convenors.

More information

Please check the conference website for more information.

Time Magazine about multifunctional agriculture, some thoughts about the farmers’ identity

While waiting for my train at Utrecht Central station – I tend to kill my time looking around in the book/magazine shop – the cover of the latest Time Magazine struck my eye, heading: “France’s Rural Revolution, traditional French farmers are dying. Can farmers make money from town dwellers’ love of the land?”. Interested about the heading – and teased by the astonishing landscape on the cover – I bought a copy for the second part of my trip to Rotterdam.

Bruce Crumley (the author) poses the question what eventually will save rural France. French farmers are hit by a shrinking agricultural sector, falling food prices (globalization) and tightening E.U. support (so called CAP reforms (Common Agricultural Policy) in 2013). These developments are not exclusive to France, farmers in many other E.U. member states are facing these problems. However, future CAP reforms are considered to be critical especially to French farmers, since the French receive nearly 20% of the total CAP funding.

By illustrating the developments on three French farms the author focuses on one of the ways to get out of this tightening trap by diversifying the farm business with new (‘non-farming’) activities. A strategy also known as multifunctional agriculture. The farmers mentioned in the article developed new activities in rural tourism and the production and selling of regional products like beer and ham. Interestingly, the article has many parallels with the conversations I had myself (in relation to our research project on (Dutch) multifunctional agriculture). Apparently, many farmers (eventually) don’t regret their step on the multifunctional pathway. On the contrary, many farmers say to enjoy the new farm dynamics, contacts with new people and some even claim to have reinvented entrepreneurship. However, we needn’t to underestimate the step of ‘just’ diversifying your farm to survive. In the article colleague rural sociologist François Purseigle argues many farmers simply refuse to find new sources of income as they see diversification as a betrayal of the agricultural profession they took on. As a parallel, I experienced many interviewed Dutch farmers – who have made the step or are still hesitating in some way – have or are still struggling with their identity of being a ‘real farmer’: “It’s not just running a business” – one farmers stressed – “it’s a way of life!”. I think the notion of multifunctional agriculture has matured but still often perceived as something for losers or nothing ‘real farmers’ should deal with. Often the environments of hesitating farmers aren’t ready for this new way of farming, yet.  

The article can be found on the Time website. The page also offers a great picture gallery about the topic.

The Black Gold

Last week, students of the course ‘Agrarische en rurale ontwikkeling, sociologische perspectieven’  had two days of excursions and could choose from 4 different excursions to see different models of multifunctionality and institutional arrangements in farming (see Birgit’s blog about a different excursion). With our group, we visited the Stadsboerderij Almere and the nearby Zonnehoeve in Zeewolde. Both farms have different other activities related to farming, such as school education, cattle in nature reserves, home sales of products, relations with care institutes.

Both are also organic farms, or better; bio-dynamic farms, which goes a step further in closing the nutrient cycle than organic farming. The nutrient cycle turned out to be the key to understanding the multifunctionality of these farms. At the very core of it all was what Tineke called ‘the black gold’; good quality manure, the essential ingredient for a healthy and productive farm without dependence on external input.

To illustrate her point, she took a handful of manure from last year and encouraged students to smell it. Hesitantly a few did. To their surprise it did not smell bad. The mixture of straw, urine and feces of the beef cattle was far into the composting process. It smelled more like soil than like shit….

At the Zonnehoeve they heard again about the importance of building soil. Piet told many unusual stories which illustrated that building soil is quite literally building a resilient farm. He showed his long list of activities in which he diversified which dazzled the students (amongst others, a bakery, permanent housing for caretakers, facilities for therapy with horses, internet shop). But starting with his dairy herd, he emphasised the importance of  Tineke’s ‘black gold’ too.

The centrality of the herd in the farming philosophy of both the Stadsboerderij and the Zonnehoeve, illustrates very well the theoretical framework which the students had learned in class (see Ploeg et al 2003). Grounding the farm in this vital resource  for a healthy nutrient cycle, both farmers deepened their farm strategy by shortening the supply chain whilst delivering high quality organic produce and from that solid base they broadened their farm with new additional functions. Tineke explained this by showing her ‘black gold’, which had brought good economic revenue of their core activity; producing food (e.g. onion, pies, carrots) which made it possible to invest in an entire new facility consisting of a farm-house and barn for a further expansion into care farming.