Sustaining Dairy – PhD thesis by Georgina Villarreal Herrera

On Monday 26 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Georgina Villarreal Herrera will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘Sustaining Dairy’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

 

 

Summary of the PhD thesis

Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors’ sustainability programs are a part of that.

This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.

An impact assessment of potentially radical niche developments in the Dutch dairy sector – MSc-thesis Anne Verschoor

October 11 2016, Anne Verschoor successfully defended her MSc-thesis ‘An impact assessment of potentially radical niche developments in the Dutch dairy sector‘. She thus completed the Specialization Gastronomy of the Master Food Technology of Wageningen University. Applying a Social Science perspective in her thesis research was extra challenging but she managed very well to do so. Below an abstract of the thesis. Continue reading

Professor Bettina Bock asks “what future do we want for the country side?”

Dr. Bettina Bock from the Rural Sociology Group, also Professor of Population Decline and Quality of Life for the Northern Netherlands at Groningen University,  is in the news asking questions about the future of the Dutch country side. Check out here interview here: Bock Interview

Apologies but it is only available in Dutch.

From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship – PhD-thesis Pieter Seuneke

Multifunctional agriculture

 

On the 9th of May, I (Pieter Seuneke) will defend my PhD-thesis entitled:

From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship: exploring the underlying learning process

Context

My thesis focusses on the many European and Dutch farming families which, urged by the environmental, social and economic crisis in agriculture, have diversified their conventional production-oriented farming activities by developing new non-farming businesses on their existing farms. Currently, there are many farmers who are involved in agro-tourism, nature and landscape management, processing and selling of farm products and, more recently in The Netherlands, professional (child)care and on-farm education. The development of such new business activities by these farmers represents a shift away from conventional production-oriented farming towards a more ‘multifunctional’ farming model in which the role of agriculture goes beyond mass food production.

Focus

Based on four different studies, all drawing on the empirical work done in the context of the Dutch research project ‘Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture’ (carried out by the Rural Sociology Group from 2009 to 2011), I unravel the learning process which is considered as underlying the switch towards multifunctionality and multifunctional entrepreneurship. In other words: the process by which farmers (men, women and their families) re-invent themselves as ‘multifunctional entrepreneurs’, gain the necessary knowledge, skills and networks ‘to do multifunctionality’ as well as finding their way on the multifunctional pathway. Apart from its contribution to theory – by bringing this complex learning process to light – my work ultimately supports practitioners (teachers, trainers, advisers) in fostering this, for today’s and tomorrow’s agriculture and rural areas, valuable form of agricultural entrepreneurship.

Supervision

During my PhD, I have been supervised by Prof. Han Wiskerke (professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University) and Dr Thomas Lans (ass. prof. Education and Competence Studies, Wageningen University).

The defence

My defence will take place on Friday the 9th of May, at 13.30, in the Aula of Wageningen University. The event is open to those who are interested and can also be followed/seen back on WURtv.

Contact

For more information: pieter.seuneke@wur.nl

Two food and urban farming conferences in The Netherlands in May 2014

Take action? Collaborative action for more sustainable food systems

PUREFOOD Conference, May 14th, Utrecht (The Netherlands)

On Wednesday May 14th 2014, the international PUREFOOD conference will take place in Utrecht (The Netherlands): “Take action? Collaborative action for more sustainable food systems.” This day marks the finalization of the EU-funded PUREFOOD program. The conference is connected to the Day of Urban Farming (‘Dag van de Stadslandbouw’), which takes place on May 15th in Utrecht.

The PUREFOOD conference starts with an informal drink and local bite on Tuesday evening the 13th of May. Wednesday morning the 14th will stimulate the dialogue between you and business, government and civil society representatives, with reflections by keynote listener Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City University London). Taking 3 short, inspirational talks as the starting point, we will try to find answers to the rather challenging tasks we face for the (near) future with regard to making our food system more sustainable. With the experience of 12 PUREFOOD researchers, plus the presence of experienced and well-known scholars and practitioners, we can draw from a rich ‘database’ of knowledge. The challenge will be to connect all this knowledge present and translate it into advice for and action by various actors within our food system.

Wednesday afternoon 3 different excursions are offered, all visiting Utrecht and its peri-urban fringes. During the excursion you will experience the rich history of urban and peri-urban agriculture in Utrecht. The results of the workshop sessions and discussions on Wednesday morning, will feed into 9 English spoken sessions during the Day of Urban Farming on Thursday May 15th.

For more information: www.purefoodconference.com.

Third Edition Day of Urban Farming, The Netherlands

May 14th-17th Utrecht (The Netherlands)

After two previous editions in Almere (2012) and Rotterdam (2013), the Day of Urban Farming (‘Dag van de Stadslandbouw’) has become the authoritative professional event in the field of urban and urban oriented farming in The Netherlands. During this National Platform on May 15th 2014, its 400 participants and about 80 speakers will deal with the central topic how urban and peri-urban  farming and regional food systems can fulfill the needs of Dutch cities, its inhabitants and local farmers. Participants at the conference are farmers and urban farming entrepreneurs, food & agriculture executives and executives from city and regional governments, health organizations, social institutions, real estate developers, housing corporations, universities and colleges.

The conference consist of a plenary session with keynote speaker Claus Meyer (founder New Nordic Cuisine Movement; co-owner restaurant Noma (Copenhagen) and Sharon Dijksma (Minister of Agriculture of The Netherlands). The plenary session is followed by three rounds of breakout sessions, where one will be able to discuss a broad variety of urban farming subjects in further detail. Main items in 2014 will be:

  • health and social aspects
  • business models, value creation and economics
  • cultivation in and on buildings
  • urban area development and placemaking
  • sustainability and local cycles
  • local and regional food networks
  • urban and regional food policies and planning

For English speaking participants, 9 of the 27 breakout sessions will be held in English (in co-operation with the PUREFOOD conference). During three excursions on Wednesday May 14th, one will be able to meet farmers and urban gardeners in and around the city of Utrecht and hear about their experiences. On Saturday April 17th, the general public is invited to visit urban farms and urban gardens all over The Netherlands. In this way, local residents get the chance to become acquainted with urban farming projects in their own neighborhood.

For more information: www.dagvandestadslandbouw.nl.

DERREG film Westerkwartier

Over the last 3 years, we have been carrying out research in the Westerkwartier concerning global influences on rural regional development.

The Westerkwartier, Groningen Province, The Netherlands

This research was carried out as part of the European project DERREG. The Westerkwartier was involved in two work packages of the project: 1. Investigating arrangements through which public support for joint learning and innovation is provided to development initiatives active in the region (WP4) and 2. Investigating global networking activities among rural businesses in the Westerkwartier (WP1).

In the summer and fall of this year, three film students from the University of Aberystwyth in Wales made their way around Europe to visit all case study areas and to film the present development activities. In the Westerkwartier, the film focuses on our research conducted for WP4 (joint learning and innovation). In this film, several supporters as well as the beneficiaries were interviewed. Their stories describe the development activities in the Westerkwartier very lively and give a feeling of the enthusiastic and motivated engagement of the denizens in developing their Westerkwartier. The film is available on YouTube and can be viewed here. Enjoy!

Aankondiging Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw

Op donderdag 19 mei a.s. organiseren de Groene Kennis Coöperatie, de Taskforce Multifunctionele Landbouw en KPC Groep de ‘Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw’. De dag richt zich op docenten in het (groen)onderwijs die meer willen weten van multifunctionele landbouw, het ondernemen op deze bedrijven en de manier waarop het onderwijs hierop kan inspringen.

Workshop

Naast een bijdrage in de vorm van een inleidende presentatie organiseren wij, n.a.v. van onze recente onderzoekswerkzaamheden, een interessante workshop op deze dag. In de workshop staat de verankering van multifunctionele landbouw in het onderwijs centraal: hoe kunnen we aandacht besteden aan deze vorm van ondernemen en om welke (nieuwe) vormen van leren vraagt het?

Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw

Doelgroep: docenten, stagebegeleiders

Datum: 19 mei a.s. van 09.30 – 16.15 uur

Locatie: Fruittuin Verbeek, Oldebroek

Deelname is gratis. Meer informatie over de dag, het programma en aanmelding is te vinden op de volgende website.

Multifunctionele landbouw is een sector met toekomst

Ondernemen in de multifunctionele landbouw is niet voor stoppers, maar biedt juist toekomstperspectief. Het vervlechten van nieuwe activiteiten (zoals zorg, recreatie, educatie, huisverkoop etc.) met de agrarische productie zorgt voor een aanzienlijke bijdrage aan het gezinsinkomen en verdere ontwikkeling van de agrarische activiteiten. Dit blijkt uit het onderzoek ‘Dynamiek en Robuustheid van Multifunctionele Landbouw’ dat in opdracht van het ministerie van EL&I werd uitgevoerd door de leerstoelgroep Rurale Sociologie van Wageningen University. Het onderzoek is gebaseerd op diepte-interviews met 120 multifunctionele landbouwondernemers. De ondernemers komen uit het Brabantse Groene Woud, Flevoland, Laag-Holland (Noord-Holland), het Zeeuwse Walcheren/Zuid-Beveland, De Drentse Wolden en de Noordelijke Friese Wouden.

Robuustheid

Uit de interviews blijkt ten eerste dat bij de komst van nieuwe activiteiten vooral positieve drijfveren een rol spelen, meer dan een te laag inkomen. Betrokken boeren en boerinnen hebben vaak behoefte aan meer contact met burgers, consumenten en de maatschappij. Ten tweede blijkt dat op de onderzochte bedrijven gemiddeld bijna drie verschillende activiteiten voorkomen, in verschillende combinaties.

De verschillende combinaties van multifunctionele activiteiten op de onderzochte bedrijven zorgen voor een gemiddelde omzet van 195.000 euro (aanvullend op de agrarische omzet). De activiteiten leveren – met gemiddeld 40 procent – een aanzienlijke bijdrage aan het totale gezinsinkomen. Sinds de start van de nieuwe activiteiten is er bovendien op het overgrote deel van de bedrijven sprake van een positieve wisselwerking met verdere agrarische ontwikkeling. Agrarische omzet, grondgebruik en arbeidsinzet blijft behouden of groeit.

De robuustheid van multifunctionele bedrijvigheid blijkt verder ook uit de positieve beoordeling van het totale bedrijfsinkomen door boeren, groeiende omzetten en inkomensbetekenis en de geleidelijke uitbreiding van het aantal nieuwe bedrijfsactiviteiten in de tijd. Ook de totale arbeidsinzet op betrokken bedrijven neemt geleidelijk aan toe. “Multifunctionele landbouw is dus niet alleen van betekenis voor betrokken bedrijven, maar zeker ook voor de plattelandseconomie als geheel”, aldus projectleider Han Wiskerke.

Verschillen

Het onderzoek laat zien dat er grote verschillen bestaan in dynamiek en robuustheid van onderzochte bedrijven. Dit wordt enerzijds verklaard door regionale verschillen, zoals de aanwezigheid van sterke samenwerkingsverbanden als belangrijke succesfactor. Daarnaast maken ook meer bedrijfsgebonden factoren verschil. Te denken valt aan verschillen in bedrijfsstrategie zoals de mate van investeren, het wel of niet werken met personeel en in hoeverre er wisselwerking plaatsvindt tussen de verschillende bedrijfsactiviteiten.

Taskforce

De Taskforce Multifunctionele Landbouw zet zich namens het ministerie van EL&I in voor de verdere ontwikkeling van zorglandbouw, streekproducten, recreatie, agrarische kinderopvang en educatie en natuurbeheer. Kenniscoördinator Arjan Monteny: ,,Het onderzoek toont aan dat multifunctionele landbouw een stevig fundament heeft: ondernemers durven erin te investeren en behalen rendement uit de nieuwe bedrijfsactiviteiten. Het is mooi dat dit vaak gepaard gaat met verdere ontwikkeling van de agrarische activiteiten. Multifunctionele landbouw is daarmee onlosmakelijk verbonden met de agrarische productie. Het is duidelijk geen exit-strategie.”

Rapport

Het onderzoeksrapport is te downloaden via de website van het onderzoeksproject.

Bron: deze blog is een overname van een gezamenlijk persbericht van de leerstoelgroep Rurale Sociologie en de Taskforce Multifunctionele Landbouw

Food: The Link between City and Countryside

In spring 2007 the Amsterdam Food Strategy entitled Proeftuin Amsterdam , which was inspired by the London Food Strategy, commenced. Proeftuin Amsterdam combines policies, initiatives and activities which serve the following objectives in Amsterdam and the surrounding region:

  • Provide naturally-grown and preferably local food for everybody while minimizing environmental impacts;
  • Promote healthy eating habits, especially among children & young people;
  • Achieve a balance between the demands of urban consumers and the supply of food products from the surrounding countryside;
  • Preserve the surrounding agricultural landscapes of Amsterdam.

In order to achieve these objectives Proeftuin Amsterdam seeks to act as lubricant for existing and emerging initiatives, as a facilitator for new alliances between public and private parties and as an initiator of new initiatives. Some examples of the targets of Proeftuin Amsterdam are:

  • The availability of organically produced and preferably local food in:
    • all school canteens;
    • municipal canteens, hospitals and care institutions;
    • the tourist industry;
    • local day markets.
  • Preserving agriculture in the immediate surroundings of the city for the long term.
  • Kitchen amenities in new schools.
  • Every primary school to have access to a nearby school working garden.
  • Simplified regulations for retail and day markets for organic and local food.
  • Reduction of food miles, lower emissions as a result of cleaner transport.
  • School curricula to include life style and eating habits.

According to a DG Regional Policy document about Proeftuin Amsterdam[i] the

“action programme for healthy and sustainable food chains has shown impressive impact and resonance. … This is especially evident for initiatives in the field of education (schools gardens, school meals, farm-related projects) and the promotion of regional markets to connect producers and consumers. All in all the Proeftuin Amsterdam testifies to the good sense of connecting environmental and health aspects of food systems with the preservation of the peri-urban area around Amsterdam. … Such regional food strategies can be instrumental in meeting the challenges Europe will have to face with respect to changing global food markets and demographic developments.”    

Despite the fact that Proeftuin Amsterdam has achieved, albeit sometimes partially, many of its initial goals and has inspired other cities in the Netherlands to incorporate food in urban development plans, the municipality has decided to end the programme by the end of this year, although some projects will continue in the Amsterdam boroughs. To mark the end of 4 years of Proeftuin Amsterdam a special issue of Plan Amsterdam, the magazine of the spatial planning department, about food has been issued entitled ‘Voedsel – Schakel tussen Stad en Platteland’. This special issue, in Dutch but with an English summary, reflects on Amsterdam’s food strategy but also contains a very interesting article about the history of the Amsterdam food markets.


[i] See http://www.proeftuin.amsterdam.nl/aspx/download.aspx?file=/contents/pages/100532/case_study_amsterdam_food_strategy.pdf

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.