Tag Archives: rural land use

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.





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…


Navigating a Gower traffic jam (photo courtesy Doug Ramsey)

… and evenings capped with copious quantities of socializing.


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

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


… 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…


(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.


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.


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.


…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;


… to investigate land use policy and struggles;


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.


(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)

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


Three Cliffs Bay (photo courtesy Randall Wilson)

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


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


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;


(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.


(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)

Rural Land Use Conference

Guest blog: Joel Fridman, University of Toronto

On May 14, three hundred people packed the Royal City Ballroom at the Delta Hotel in Guelph, Ontario for the Exploring Rural Land Use Conference. The conference, presented by the University of Guelph’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Food and Agricultural Policy based out of their Department of Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics (FARE), sought to engage “the historic discussion about the role of individuals and hand of government” in enduring issues of rural land use. Members of Ontario’s agriculture, business, planning, civil society, academic and government sectors attended to take part in this discussion. The guiding questions for the day included the price of farmland in Ontario, the dominant trends in farmland use, and farmland ownership.

The day was divided into three sessions. The first morning session explored land prices, and the dominant factors affecting the farmland market. Among three speakers in this session, Marleen Van Ham, a real estate appraiser, gave “the dirt road perspective” on trends in the land market based on sales.  Among some insightful conclusions, Van Ham shared what she called “wild cards” in the land market, noting the uncertainties with respect to how wind turbines, solar farms, the greenbelt, urban sprawl, and the growing hunger of urban investment firms for rural land, will affect the land market going forward.

The second morning session focused on rural land governance, concentrating on provincial policy framework for severances, land subdivision and a core planning issue of surplus residences on rural land parcels. Sarah Willhelm, a planner in the development department of the County of Wellington, evocatively put the question to the audience: will new residential lots affect what farmers can do on the land in the future?

The final session focused on property rights. Speakers presented on the history of the Property Rights Movement in Ontario, providing a staunch reminder of the historic tensions associated with balancing private property rights with public interest in land use.

In a keynote address, Chief Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nation and Chairman of the First Nations Land Advisory Committee shared the latest news on the Framework Agreement (FA) on First Nations Land Management. The FA is a government-to-government arrangement committed to in 1996 and passed in the Federal Parliament in 1999. Through the development of Land Codes, the FA recognizes a First Nation as the legitimate Government over their lands and resources, assuming jurisdiction to make, administer, and enforce their laws. Each First Nation is responsible for developing their Land Codes. 39 First Nations are in the operational stages of the FA, while 30 are in the development stage. Daniel Millete, a strategic planner of the First Nation Lands Management Resource Centre also spoke of opportunities to meld western planning methods with indigenous land values for the betterment of planning practices and resource management in First Nation Reserves.

Overall, the conference provided a healthy discussion of pertinent issues demanding attention, and participatory engagement. With this in mind, however, sometimes absent from such discussions of trends and pressures on rural land use is the opportunity to step back and provide important context to the conversation. What kind of food system do we want, and more importantly, what kind of food system do we need? Rural lands are where our farmers grow our food, and the policies surrounding farmland use structure the kind of food system that is possible. This context for decision making will be neglected at our peril.


Presentations and slides from the conference can be accessed here (http://www.uoguelph.ca/fare/institute/presentations.html)