Annual Report 2016
Published at: 16 January 2017
Seven years after its inception the AESOP Sustainable Food Planning Group is thriving. Food planning is rapidly gaining momentum in the profession and in academia. It has grown into an inter- and trans-disciplinary field of research and education bringing together policy makers, scholars and practitioners from all over the globe. Food charters, food strategies and food policy councils have multiplied. Alternative food networks are gaining a share of the food market. New forms of localisation of food production, including urban agriculture, are gaining ground. Changes in the food system happen against the backdrop of a multi-fold crisis of the conventional global food system which is fraud by depletion of natural resources, urban food crises, severe health problems, food-commodity speculation, staple food price rises, land-grabbing, exploitation, waste, soil exhaustion, traffic congestion, a flight from the country, loss of biodiversity and much more.
With global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 and a degree of urbanization already exceeding 50%, questions of food security and sustainability are gaining ever increasing prominence among researchers and politicians. For planners, attention to food production in urban and regional contexts has become centrally important. Because of its multi-functional character, urban food systems are an ideal medium through which to discuss and design sustainable urban structures and places.
In recent years, multifunctional urban agriculture and systemic approaches have emerged as important topics in debates on the future of urban food systems, and its numerous different forms and divergent character in the North and South make it an issue rich for contextualisation and debate.
Aims and means
The Sustainable Food Planning thematic group (SFP) aims to bring together academics, policy-makers and practitioners from an international audience and provide a forum for discussion and development of sustainable food systems. Fashioning a sustainable food system is one of the most compelling challenges of the 21st Century. Because of its multi-functional character, food is an ideal medium through which to design sustainable places, be they urban, rural or peri-urban places.
Elections and resources
So far the group functions as an inter- and trans-disciplinary platform - focusing on urban and regional planning - which manages to organize an international annual conference. Lately the group has started building up a democratic structure with the initialization of a core membership. Some 150 core members have been registered by May 2016. The bulk of the members reside in the 28 member states of the European Union with a substantial representation from the UK, Italy, France, Germany and The Netherlands. A large minority stems from other countries and continents.
In the initial phase of its existence leadership of the group was rather informal. In 2016 the first self appointed board of the group, being Andre Viljoen (chair), Arnold van der Valk (secretary) and Coline Perrin have made an effort for the sake of consolidation of the group including free formal registration of members, the establishment of a board and the formalisation of a separate platform for young professionals and PhDs.
May 2016 registered members have elected a new chair, being Chiara Tornaghi, Research Fellow in Urban Food Sovereignty and Resilience at the Centre for Agroecology and Water and Resilience of Coventry University in the UK.
So far membership of the group is free. The groups modest expenses have been covered by a small profit gained by the organisation of annual conferences. The group's resources are limited, too limited indeed to keep the core business going. So far the costs of administration have been covered by the departments which have been involved in the organisation of the annual conference. The lack of resources must be tackled over the coming years. Lately the group has benefitted from a modest contribution by the mother organisation for a meeting of young professionals and PhDs, planned for March 2017. In the next year the group will upgrade the weblog on the AESOP website and develop a new website to gather conference proceedings, enable networking, and host/share materials produced through webinars and other events.
Conferences and webinars
Over the past seven years seven international conferences have been implemented. The seventh conference entitled 'Localizing Food Strategies: Farming Cities Performing Rurality' was held October 8, 9 and 10, 2015 in the city of Turin. Selected contributions will be published in a special issue of a scientific journal. The proceedings have been published on the conference website http://www.aesoptorino2015.it/proceedings_download
The eighth conference 'Re-imaging sustainable food planning, building resourcefulness: Food movements, insurgent planning and heterodox economics' is scheduled provisionally for the 7 and 8 November, 2017 at the Centre for Agroecology, water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry University, UK.
The SFP group has established links with the board of ISOCARP and has organized a seminar about Food and Planning October 19 and 20, 2015 in Wageningen, NL, in the context of the ISOCARP 50th anniversary jubilee conference.
October 19, 2016 the SFP's PhD and Young Professionals Network held its first international meeting (webinar). Key-notes were delivered by Chiara Tornaghi, Coline Perrin and Ellen Fetzer. The webinar was organized by Radu Mircea in cooperation with LeNotre Institute, a branch of the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS). March 23 and 24, 2017 the Network will organize a workshop about sustainable food planning in Berlin. Two more webinars for Young Professionals are in the pipeline for 2017: one on action research and the other on publishing.
Strategy and future plans
The newly elected chair, Chiara Tornaghi (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University), has officially taken up her role in September 2016. Starting with the fulfilment of the plans outlined in her election programme, she has issued a call for expression of interest for a number of outreach coordinators. Outreach coordinators are supposed to provide support with the conception and/or publicity of conference calls and publications, liaise with non-academic organisations and groups interested in dissemination and collaboration.
Chiara is also in the process of establishing a mailing list on the academic server JISC, which will facilitate communication and collaboration among members, in between conferences and other face-to-face events.
The steering group is also in the process of creating a website for the subgroup. This will have mainly the function to:
- retain history of past events (group foundation, conferences, webinars…)
- to hold conference proceedings and other documents which will be accessible/downloadable to current and future members of the group, beyond the life of individual conference websites (many of them are not available anymore)
- to outline the academic profile of the group, by giving an overview of the rich list of publications (journal’s special issues and books) produced with materials presented at our annual conferences (e.g. Viljoen, Andre & Jannes S.C. Wiskerke (2012), Sustainable Food Planning. Evolving theory and Practice. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers and Roggema, Rob (2016), Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Planning, London: Routledge.
- to host pages where group members can post a short CV meant to enhance collaboration and visibility;
- to publish calls for papers for annually upcoming conferences;
- to provide links to our group’s social pages (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.),
- to indicate how new members can join, how to subscribe to the mailing lists and how to contact the steering board or the regional outreach coordinators.
- to provide a link to our existing blog news hosted by the AESOP website.
To this purpose, we have compiled a list of webpages that need developing, and are currently mapping existing IT expertise across the steering group, to develop the pages. We would be glad to receive available funding (500 Euro) from AESOP to cover the costs of hosting and domain costs.