Honouring Cathleen Kneen

The family, friends, and admirers of Cathleen Kneen (1943-2016) invite you to a potluck supper on International Women’s Day to honour her amazing life, work, and legacy.

When: 6-8pm, March 8 2016
Where: FoodShare Cafeteria, 90 Croatia Street, Toronto


Salads, desserts, or donations will be gratefully received. A main course will be provided. Please bring a story or memento to share, if you wish. A temporary gallery will be co-created.

Please RSVP to help us prepare by visiting: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/honouring-cathleen-kneen-1943-2016-tickets-22434581437.Cathleen Kneen

Remembering Cathleen Kneen

from CFICE, Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On February 21st, 2016, our friend and colleague, Cathleen Kneen, passed away. Cathleen has been a huge part of the CFICE community since the beginning. As the former director of Food Secure Canada, she served as community co-lead in the Community Food Security hub. Cathleen strongly believed in CFICE and in the potential power of knowledge co-creation between community researchers and academic researchers to address the many social and environmental challenges facing Canada. Her strength of vision will continue to guide us moving forward.

To find out more about Cathleen, or how to make a donation in her memory, visit our website.

Responsible Innovation

Guest Post by Kelly Bronson

On November 24, 2015, 10 “experts” from around the world gathered to inform a vision for the Norwegian governance of agricultural biotechnologies under the rubric of responsible innovation. Among the attendees were Drs. Brian Wynne (Lancaster, retired) and Sir Erik Millstone (Sussex). The workshop was funded by the Research Council of Norway and was held in Tromso—an arctic environment described by craggy mountains and dark mid-day skies.

Within a responsible innovation approach, the stewardship of innovation includes what is called “upstream” reflection on the purposes of innovation. Said differently, responsible innovation is shaped according to early consideration about what the technology is intended to do (not only what it is hoped it will not do): What are the motivations behind the innovation? Who might benefit and who not? As you can see, responsible innovation is necessarily forward-looking; it aims not just to regulate “end products,” and thus hazards that appear after the introduction of innovations. Responsible innovation emphasizes the need for care and responsiveness among scientists and decision-makers (like regulators).

At the workshop we discussed how to execute a responsible innovation framework for agricultural biotechnology governance in Europe; Norway is in the midst of applying biotechnology to the aquaculture sector. Those of us from outside of Europe also discussed how responsible innovation might be applied to agricultural biotechnology governance in North America. Unfortunately, Canada missed the boat on inclusive reflection and public deliberation over the motivations behind the development of those agricultural biotechnologies, which have existed in our food system for several decades. The purpose behind innovations like RoundupReady canola was and still is quite simple: boost farm-level productivity and contribute to a competitive biotechnology industry and economically robust agri-food sector. But what if the goal driving investments in innovation in the later 20th century had been deliberated upon by a wide variety of farmers and other stakeholders? What if alternative goals—say, environmental sustainability, local community sustainability—had surfaced over productivist ones?

Arguably, pretty serious losses have resulted from a lack of institutionally embedded deliberation on agricultural governance goals, and not just environmental and social ones. In 2005, Monsanto was forced to shelve its RoundupReady wheat because they made assumptions of need for the technology among reduced-tillage farmers, who ultimately became RoundupReady wheat’s worst critics and prevented its swift regulatory approval.

There are other ways, however, in which the responsible innovation framework could still be applied in Canada. For instance, we could adopt a precautionary approach to risk assessment (like in Europe) instead of our current backward-facing strategy that focuses on the end products of biotechnology innovation and on impacts, as they arise. Responsible innovation is, after all, about creating a responsive or flexible governance system that leaves space open for alternatives. I remain open to an alternative agri-food future.

Dr. Kelly Bronson is the Acting Director of the Science and Technology Studies program at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB.

Hungry for Change

The final report of the year-long Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty sets out how a fairer food system can be built that works better for people on low incomes.

Drawing on public hearings, expert testimony and the insights of people with experience of managing poverty, the Commission has uncovered a crisis of food access for many households in the UK. There are multiple cases of parents – usually mothers  – going hungry to feed their children or having to prioritise calories over nutrients to afford their weekly food shop. Many people are feeling a deep sense of anxiety from the struggle to manage serious squeezes in household budgets that arises from the cost of living rising faster than income.

… from the preface by Geoff Tansey, Chair of the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty

We named this independent inquiry the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty in order to broaden the debate on the connection between these two issues in the UK. People on low incomes in the UK face a new struggle to acquire sufficient quantities and adequate qualities of food. Many people are caught between the pincers of rising food prices, household bills and housing costs on one side and stagnant incomes on the other. Something has to give for these families and the only thing to squeeze is spending on food.

Recent discussion of food and poverty has been too narrow, focusing on the growth of charitable food provision, such as food banks, and the role it plays in feeding hungry people. But charitable food provision is the tip of the iceberg – the links between food and poverty extend far beyond food banks. Critically, we need to recognise that food banks and charitable food providers are not solutions to household food insecurity, they are symptoms of society’s failure to ensure everybody is sustainably well-fed.

Read more

Download the full report [pdf]

Strong #EatThinkVote campaign points to need for Canadian Food Policy Council

… from The Hill Times online, Wed Nov. 4, 2015
By Peter Andrée

Food issues are cross-cutting and complex. Who better to deliberate on them than a council that brings together the best minds from the relevant levels of government, industry, and civil society? A food policy council would consist of stakeholders and representatives from all parts of the food system.
 
In the recent election campaign, we saw a new player exerting its political muscle on the Canadian food and agricultural scene. Food Secure Canada’s #EatThinkVote campaign brought to the fore the issues of poverty-related food insecurity, the obstacles facing new farmers, and the challenges in accessing safe and affordable food faced by northern indigenous communities. The campaign represents a growing alignment of actors who are connecting around issues across the policy silos of health, agriculture, trade, environment, and more.
Read more

Imagining the future of animal farming: Natureculture and technosciences

Call for papers: Imagining the future of animal farming: Natureculture and technosciences.

(AAG Annual Meeting in San Francisco, March 29 – April 2, 2016)

Transgenic animals (Clark 2014, 2015; Rucinska 2011), in vitro meat (Stephens 2010), insects farms, pig towers (Driessen and Khortals 2012) and robotic milking machines (Holloway, Bear, and Wilkinson 2014) are just a few examples of where science & technology is currently being deployed to meet the growing global demand for meat and animal products. These innovations, along with the new types of meats they promise to produce, generate public controversies (Callon et al., 2009), since they are profoundly political, in the sense that they concern the production and distribution of societal benefits and risks, cultural in that, by intervening in nature, innovations such as transgenic animals and ‘in vitro meat’ powerfully impact upon on social meanings and identities and ethical, in that they raise significant questions about our relationship with processes of life.
Animal geographers are beginning to engage with these debates (for example: Emel and Neo, 2015) and with this session we invite presentations that engage with and expand the following topics:

●       What are the potential distributional consequences and ethical implications of these new technologies and innovations?
●       Who will play or should  play a role in designing  the future of animal farming?
●       Is the questioning of meat consumption  a way of forging new human-animal relations or rendering livestock animals obsolete?
●       What are the implications of these new technologies and innovations for human/animal relations?
●       What might it be like to be a transgenic animal or an animal in a high tech space?
●       Where is the animal or what becomes of the animal in a post-domestic era?

We invite empirical and theoretical papers around these themes but are not limited to them. Please send an abstract (max 250 words) with short bio to Karolina Rucinska (rucinskaka@cardiff.ac.uk) and Mara Miele (mielem@cardiff.ac.uk) by the 24th of October 2015.
References:

Clark, J. L. (2015). Killing the Enviropigs. Journal of Animal Ethics, 5(1), 20-30.

Cross, J. A. (2014). Continuity and Change: Amish Dairy Farming in Wisconsin Over The Past Decade. Geographical Review, 104(1), 52-70

Driessen, C., & Korthals, M. (2012). Pig towers and in vitro meat: disclosing moral worlds by design. Social Studies of Science, 42(6), 797-820.

Emel, J. and Neo, H. (eds) (2015)  The Political Ecologies of Meat Production, London: Earthscan

Holloway, L., Bear, C., & Wilkinson, K. (2014). Robotic milking technologies and renegotiating situated ethical relationships on UK dairy farms. Agriculture and human values, 31(2), 185-199.

Rucinska, K. (2011) Public perception of biotechnological innovation in agriculture- the Enviropig™. MSc Thesis, Cardiff University

Stephens, N. (2010). In vitro meat: Zombies on the menu. SCRIPTed, 7(2), 394-401.

Announcing Farm 2.0 – A sustainable food hackerspace

OFN break upFarm 2.0 is a new project that explores how internet and communication technologies can be used in Canada’s sustainable food movement to optimize traditional agricultural practices, enable effective networks and facilitate policy change.

Smaller scaled organic and ecological producers are trying to build community around their farms and squeeze out a living in a landscape where farms keep getting bigger, products are more distant, retail is more consolidated and marketing is laden with ‘green washing’. These producers are being supported by ethically-minded consumers, academics and policy-makers. A diverse ecosystem of sustainable food hubs and networks, oriented toward building food systems that are more local, fair and green is coalescing in Canada.

To date, Internet and communication technologies have not figured prominently in forging food system solutions, and the intersection of technology and sustainable food is an under-developed area. One reason for this is that ecological and organic producers have historically favoured low technological, traditional, hands-on and artisanal practices.  But Theresa Schumilas, who recently joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems as a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow,  thinks that these  ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ worlds have much in common. An organic farmer herself,  Schumilas wonders if there are ways emerging technologies might open up new spaces for us to imagine and realize radically different practices and make shifts to more sustainable food systems.

Theresa is friend-raising and fund-raising to establish a sustainable food and technology ‘hackerspace’ or ‘lab’ that enables connections and collaboration between Canada’s emerging food hubs/networks and designers, programmers and technologists. She calls the project  ‘Farm 2.0’ to signal an extension of ‘Web 2.0’, which generally refers to how the world wide web has transitioned from being a collection of individual web sites with static information, to the web as a network of interactive computer platforms and applications. Farm 2.0 and Web 2.0 alike signal ethics such as democratization, empowerment, citizenship, sovereignty and protection of both the cyber and terrestrial commons.

In the last few years there has been an explosion of primarily proprietary software packages and web-based applications that are designed to help smaller scaled farmers with marketing.  Theresa has been interviewing ecological farmers about their use of these various programs and notes that their experiences are mixed.  “On one hand, farmers appreciate having help with sales logistics like inventory management and invoicing,  but at the same time,  they are looking for something more. This first generation of on-line marketplaces doesn’t seem to reflect the value placed on the commons that motivates many ecological farmers.”  When you think about it,  what has been happening in sustainable food software,  mirrors what has been happening in the seed industry. Technological ‘solutions’ have mined the knowledge built in the sustainable food movement over the past 30 years,  encoded that experience into a variety of internet-based applications, and sold it back to the farmers and food hubs who originated it. While the sustainable food movement has been focusing on seed sovereignty and building the ecological commons, its cyber commons is being privatized.

The foundation for a Farm 2.0 hackerspace that ‘saves code’ just like seeds,  already exists. Two years ago, in Australia, The Open Food Foundation (OFF) established itself  as a registered charity in order to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems. The Foundation focuses on bringing together farmers, food hubs and developers in a global network that facilitates open-source, non-proprietary technological innovation toward building more sustainable food systems. Their first project was the development and global launch of a technology platform called Open Food Network (OFN), that offers a way for sustainable food hubs, networks, producers and related food enterprises to link and build connections across local, regional, provincial, national and global scales. One of Theresa’s projects is to put this platform to the service of Canada’s growing sustainable food movement.

Open Food Network (OFN) is a non-proprietary, open-source, online platform. Using a set of intuitive and flexible tools, this multi-purpose software serves as a directory, communication hub and logistics platform that enables relationships among farmers, consumers, food hubs and other food enterprises. On one hand, it is an on-line marketplace. At local scales, it helps eaters find, buy, and learn about sustainable food, and helps producers and food hubs with supply chain logistics. However, the platform is more than a set of marketing tools and differs from other proprietary e-commerce platforms in important ways. OFN is a space that helps isolated sustainable food projects link, learn, and build peer-to-peer networks across scales in order to grow and strengthen a global resilient food movement. Under the oversight of the global foundation (Open Food Network), a community of coders, developers, producers, food hubs and others work to continually improve the platform and proliferate its use using charitable funding as well as reinvestment of revenues.

Since the launch of OFN two years ago, food communities around the world have been licensed and mentored by OFF to use this platform. There are now 25 networks using the platform in Australia, 20 in the UK, 2 in Norway, and teams are currently launching in South Africa, France, the US and (with this project) Canada.

theresa in front of canningTheresa will be updating the Nourishing Communities site regularly, but if you want to be involved in her research,  or if you have some ideas to share,  please email her.

Social economy in a Globalized World

Guest blog from Irena Knezevic, Assistant Professor, Communication, Carleton University

CIRIEC international research conference on social economy

July 2015, Lisbon, Portugal

International Center of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC) organizes a bi-annual research conference focusing on social economy, which by their definition includes cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations, and cultural and philanthropic organizations. This was its fifth conference and over 300 people from around the world were in attendance. Portugal was an appropriate setting for this gathering as the country boasts a vibrant social economy sector and in 2013 it adopted its General Law on Social Economy, following the example of Spain that similarly cemented social economy into its legislative framework in 2011.

This year’s theme was “Social economy in a Globalized World” and consequently many of the sessions focused on issues of globalization, financialization, governance, territories, and the social economy’s relationship to the state. In many ways it was a celebration of the contributions that the sector makes (and can potentially make) to social well-being in a world where economic inequalities are on the rise and the neoliberal economic model is failing.

A number of presentations relied on traditional economic theory to provide very abstract assessments and projections related to social economy. Others reported on very regionally specific trends. Nevertheless, several presentations offered some interesting intersections to our own work. Nathalie Verceles from the Philippines used her fieldwork with indigenous women’s cooperatives to illustrate how the social and informal sectors have been historically undervalued precisely because they typically employ those who are already socially marginalized. Alex Murdock from the United Kingdom described his work with social enterprises to develop measurements of social return on investment, something our community partners have already identified as a pressing need here in Canada. Jutta Gutberlet from the University of Victoria, BC, shared her research on participatory sustainable waste management in Brazil where informal recyclers’ networks formalized into cooperatives to develop enterprises focused on social inclusion, empowerment and collective action.

While generally an enthusiastic gathering, the conference was not without its critics. The purpose of the conference was to “[encourage] interdisciplinary dialogue, exchange and collaboration in order to enhance the contributions and applications of scientific inquiry for understanding and improving the life conditions and experiences of the less favoured people.”

CIRIECWhile the diversity of the participants was notable, the organizational leadership and keynote speakers were much more monolithic. The opening night and the second day’s plenary session included a total of twenty speakers. Only two of them were women (and one of them was not even on the original schedule but spoke in place of a participant who was unable to attend). The rhetoric of inclusion was thus not very well reflected in the voices that were featured. This, however, did allow for very lively coffee-break discussions among participants, suggesting that this imbalance was far from unnoticed.

Despite this shortcoming, the general tone of the conference was that of certainty that social economy can bring about prosperity and equity much more effectively than the neoliberal model ever could. That potential, many of the participants suggested, is what will make social economy blossom in the coming years. You can find more information about CIRIEC here. Or visit the conference website where you can find the complete conference program.

Global Challenges and Rural Responses

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.

aberglade

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…

John-Smithers-brutal-croquet

(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.

global-food

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.

nags

…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.

Newtown-twins

(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;

Frolicking-geographers-Newtown

(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

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.