Global Challenges and Rural Responses

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Probably the best rural geography conference in Wales

(C’mon, it’s Cymru!)

Guest blog from Phil Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

I recently attended Global Challenges and Rural Responses, the 8th Quadrennial UK-US-Canadian Rural Geography Conference in Wales, 6th – 12th July 2015 — co-sponsored by Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities.

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Swansea-castle

 

 

This conference brings together the AAG Rural Geography Specialty Group, the CAG Rural Geography Study Group and the RGS-IBG Rural Geography Research Group in an intense, intimate, engaged format, wherein each of the 33 delegates shares their research with the other 32, in sessions that span a week. Presentations are carefully interspersed with field trips highlighting local rural issues—including the dangers of jogging on increasingly congested Welsh roads…

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Navigating a Gower traffic jam (photo courtesy Doug Ramsey)

… and evenings capped with copious quantities of socializing.

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Enjoying an Y Consti-tutional (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

Themes spanned the transdisciplinary practice of rural geography; the changing nature of rural environmental challenges;

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… the new face[s] of exurban development and rural landscapes; the realities of modern farming; the role of alternative food networks and changing practices in shaping the new rural realities; rural responses to global challenges…

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(photo courtesy Lisa Harrington)

… and rural gentrification; re-imagining and rebuilding rural communities and rural-urban connections; and understanding the implications of global economic restructuring and collaborative responses in rural communities.

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Collaborative responses (photo courtesy Colleen Hiner)

My own research, ‘Scale and the conventionalization of local food’, found many points of interconnection with a series of presentations that mapped the implications of food systems transitions for rural and urban communities, through both local and global food chains. These presentations covered diverse locales—from the South Carolina Lowcountry to Riga, rural Kenya and Hong Kong—as well as diverse subjects, including civic and political engagement, the influence of a legacy of exploitation, political agroecology, cultural firewalls, agriburbia, and measuring the performance of global and local food chains.

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Sampling Welsh-Indian fusion at Patti Raj, Swansea (photo courtesy Colleen Hiner)

For me, many of the conference isights coalesced around the diversity of responses in rural regions and landscapes to global realignments, state-level austerity and delegation of services, combined with a growing distortion from wealthy rural amenity investors.

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…expressing deep concern for the rural horse-racing industry… (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

Over the course of the week, it became clear that rural geography methodologies are well-positioned to incorporate metrics that recognize complexity, and participatory methodologies that recognize rural positionality;

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… to investigate land use policy and struggles;

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North Brandon getting the sharp end of the stick… again (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

… to rethink the rural, and rural globalization; to explore governance of rural countryside, environment and community; and to explain the global challenges and rural responses reflected in uneven development, the construction of rural life, and crossing boundaries.

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(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)

The conference highlights also included the many forays into the Welsh countryside:

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Three Cliffs Bay (photo courtesy Randall Wilson)

Parkmill, Gower (the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Three Cliffs Bay;

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greengreenhills2the National Wool Museum, Llandysul, demonstrating the historical and reviving importance of artisanal wool production to the Welsh countryside;

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Centre for Alternative Technology, Llwyngwern Quarry, Pantperthog, Machynlleth

… the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), with alternative energy and construction displays—including wind, solar, hydro, wood pellets, green roofs, straw bale, packed earth and much, much more;

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(photo courtesy Lisa Harrington)

… and Newtown—where stoic field researchers navigated an incredibly serious interactive walk while reflecting on everyday globalization in a small town, using Storymap. And carefully measured the accuracy of random peri-urban birds. Seriously.

It is often difficult to estimate the value that comes from sharing academic work in a conference setting, but i have no doubt that the strength of the bonds created while discussing our work and its implications, across diverse rural Welsh landscapes—and over the occasional pint of Welsh conviviality—will continue to generate fruitful collaboration and useful comparative work on issues that face rural communities, globally, for years to come.

And perhaps a tri-nation croquet grudge match.

Croquet-conversation

(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)

Our Common Future Under Climate Change

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Guest blog from Byomkesh Talukder, PhD candidate in Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

In “Our Common Future Under Climate Change” International Scientific Conference, 7-10 July 2015 Paris, France, the scientific community from around the world came together to address key issues concerning climate change in the broader context of global change. The conference offered an opportunity to discuss solutions for both mitigation and adaptation issues, as well as many side events organized by different stakeholders. In the conference, delegates discussed—among many other scientific and social issues—sustainable local communities, sustainable food and agricultural systems, and climate smart agriculture as part of local adaptation and social learning for a transformative low carbon society.

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As one of the doctoral students of Professor Alison Blay-Palmer, I represented and promoted the philosophical views of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and presented a paper in the conference in UNESCO entitled “Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) Technique a Tool for Assessing and Comparing Sustainability of Climate Smart and Conventional Agricultural Systems”. During the conference, I also came in contact with many world famous academicians, experts and dignitaries, and had the opportunity to exchange views with Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

Ontario Food Hub Case Studies

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Food hubs are actual or virtual spaces through which food is collected and distributed to processors, retailers, restaurants, or other organizations. They can also provide space for other food-related activities including food preparation, handling and/or processing, education and skill-building, and increasing food access.

With generous funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the Nourishing Communities research group has recently completed a series of in-depth case studies of food hubs in Ontario. These case studies tell the stories of innovative food hubs from across the province, and provide insights into what makes a food hub successful, and how these businesses and organizations help build more sustainable, local food systems.

In Northern Ontario, the food hub case study work was led by Dr. Connie Nelson and her team at Lakehead University. Here is a look at what they found.

Reports from Eastern and Southcentral Ontario will be coming soon!

Ontario’s Local Food Report: 2014-15 Edition

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The Local Food Strategy is one of the key ways government and industry are working together to solidify Ontario’s position as a world leader in food production.

A major component of the strategy is the Local Food Act, 2013, which provides new tools to increase awareness of local food, nurture local food markets and foster vibrant food-based economies across the province. A key feature of the act is the establishment of goals or targets. The first series of goals – for food literacy – were announced in January 2015. By setting these goals and committing to measure progress, we are working to enable more Ontarians to identify, obtain and prepare food grown in our Ontario.

The Local Food Act, 2013 calls for an annual report on the government’s local food activities. This publication marks our first annual Local Food Report. It provides the groundwork for future reports that will chart our progress in bringing local food to more tables across the province.

Read the full report here

 

Barn doors open for local food

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from the Edmonton Sun, Sunday July 12, 2015

Agriculture is Alberta’s largest renewable industry, with more than 43,000 farms on 50.5 million acres of land exporting over $9 billion in products and produce every year. That being said, Alberta is also the most urbanized province in Canada, with over 80% of the population living in cities.

Travis Kennedy, the urban farmer in charge of the Northlands Urban Farm at the corner of 113 Avenue and 79 Street, said participating in Alberta Open Farm Days is a great way for people to learn where their food comes from. Read more

Urban food policies : markets, catering, urban/rural connexions

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International meeting between urban governments, researchers and development stakeholders

An international meeting dedicated to sharing knowledge and practices among local governments of cities and urban regions from sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, along with research and development actors…

Beyond urban agriculture… the conference will explore three strategic levers that city and urban region governments can mobilize : markets infrastructure and logistics (wholesale, retail, transportation, etc. ); catering services (school, popular restaurants, street food, etc.); the new forms of connexions between urban and rural areas (twinning, urban investment in agriculture, etc.)…

This conference is organized by the UNESCO Chair on world food systems and the French research center CIRAD  together with the French Agency for Development - AFD, the FAO - Food for the cities program, the RUAF Foundation, the Regions United Organisation (ORU- Fogar),  the Mercadis, Agropolis Fondation and the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH).

Read more

Scaling Up

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The Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability

When citizens take collaborative action to meet the needs of their community, they are participating in the social economy. Co-operatives, community-based social services, local non-profit organizations, and charitable foundations are all examples of social economies that emphasize mutual benefit rather than the accumulation of profit. While such groups often participate in market-based activities to achieve their goals, they also pose an alternative to the capitalist market economy. Contributors to Scaling Up investigated innovative social economies in British Columbia and Alberta and discovered that achieving a social good through collective, grassroots enterprise resulted in a sustainable way of satisfying human needs that was also, by extension, environmentally responsible.

Read more

Ecological Farmers of Ontario: Summer Field Days, Farm Tours and Workshops

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What a busy summer of Ecological Farmers of Ontario events, with field days and farm tours and workshops across Ontario—bees and goats and poultry and beef and seeds and potatoes and squash and grains and soil … oh my!

Read the full list, and register your support for EFO!

Food, Unincorporated.

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Sometimes the best way to fix the system is to start a new one

Here’s how it works.

  1. Search our diverse, independent shops for seasonal local food. Search by neighbourhood and food category, or whether you prefer delivery or pickup.
  2. Transform your transactions with affordable local food from diverse producers and hubs. Know the stories behind your food and the people who make it!
  3. Hang on for your delivery, or visit your producer or hub for a more personal connection with your food. Food shopping as diverse as nature intended it.

The Australian Open Food Network is the first Open Food Network!  [...] Co-founded by Kirsten Larsen and Serenity Hill the Open Food Network started as a little experiment with a van, some farmers and some friends. But right from the start they had systemic change in mind.  Instead of building for one hub, they could see the power of a network.  Instead of designing for one specific distribution model, they designed for diversity and flexibility.  Rather than centralised accreditation, they enabled transparency. Read more

 

Urban food policies: Markets, catering services, urban/rural connections

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International meeting / Rencontre internationale
Politiques alimentaires urbaines: Marchés, Restauration collective, connexions urbain/rural

16-18 November 2015, Montpellier (France)

The UNESCO Chair on world food systems and CIRAD, gathered together within the Surfood (Sustainable Urban Food Systems) programme, in collaboration with many partners, are organizing an international meeting dedicated to the sharing of knowledge and practices among local governments of cities and urban areas, along with research and development actors. The objective is to contribute through dialogue to a better knowledge and understanding of urban food policies in the world, their construction, modes of action and impacts.
This meeting will provide an opportunity to show that, in addition to national policies and international agreements, cities can also make a vital contribution to food security and sustainable food systems. Read more