PhD position: Knowledge brokerage to promote sustainable food consumption and production

In January 2011 the project ‘FOODLINKS’ (Knowledge brokerage to promote sustainable food consumption and production: linking scientists, policymakers and civil society organizations) will start. This project is funded by the European Commission and will be carried out by a consortium of 14 partners (universities, regional and local governments and civil society organizations) from 9 European countries. The overall project aims at developing and experimenting with new ways of linking research to policy-making in the field of sustainable food consumption and production. FOODLINKS will be coordinated by Prof. Han Wiskerke and Dr. Bettina Bock of the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University.

Job description

Within the FOODLINKS project we are looking for a a PhD candidate who is interested in issues of science-society dialogue, science-policy collaboration and social learning in the field of sustainable production and consumption. The PhD candidate will combine the writing of a PhD thesis with hands-on participation in a EC-funded project and contribution to project deliverables. 

Within the overall FOODLINKS project,  the PhD project monitors and evaluates the processes of social learning taking place in three Communities of Practice that are established as part of the project. In these Communities of Practice researchers, policymakers and civil society organization exchange knowledge and experiences and commonly define new research questions in the field of short food supply chains, sustainable public food procurement and urban food strategies. The PhD project will evaluate the knowledge brokerage activities and processes of social learning that are taking place in the Communities of Practice as well as in the project as a whole. 


  • A Master degree in sociology, communication science or innovation studies.
  • Knowledge of relevant theoretical concepts in science and technology studies, science-society dialogue and science-policy collaboration, such as boundary work, knowledge brokerage, multi-stakeholder participation and social learning.
  • Knowledge of and experience with monitoring and evaluating processes of (social) learning.
  • Some knowledge of or interest in agro-food research and issues of sustainable food production and consumption. 
  • Good analytical and writing skills.
  • Fluent in English
  • Willing to travel as the project will include frequent meetings within Europe.

 Appointment conditions

A PhD position for a period of 18 months, extended with another 30 months upon favourable evaluation. Gross salary will increase from € 2042 per month in the first year up to € 2612 per month in the last year based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week). In addition, we offer a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary. 

 Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from:

  • Prof. dr. ir J.S.C. Wiskerke, Chair of Rural Sociology, Telephone number: +31 317 482679/4507 and
  • Dr. Ir B.B. Bock, Associate Professor Rural Sociology, Telephone number: +31 317 483275/4507 

Additional information about the FOODLINKS project can obtained through this link. The PhD position is mainly related to Work Packages (WPs) 2, 6 and 7 of FOODLINKS.

Additional information about the organisation can be obtained through one of the following:

Interested? Apply now via before November 8th 2010 (Vacancy number: SSG-RSO-0005).

Second European Sustainable Food Planning Conference – a last reminder

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs the  Urban Performance Group of the University of Brighton (UK) will host the second European Sustainable Food Planning Conference on 29 and 30 October 2010 under auspices of the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP). Although the deadlines for submission of abstracts and selection of papers and posters have passed, there are still a few places available to attend the conference. It promises to become an interesting conference due to the diversity of disciplinary and interdisciplinary contributions and the geographical range of cases and experiences that are going to be presented. And, furthermore, it also seems to be a vary timely conference; the attention for urban agriculture, food and health, food and urban design and food governance is rapidly increasing, not only in the academic realm but also in political and societal debates.

For more information about the conference you can download the conference brochure or have a look at the conference website.

PUREFOOD research and training network

The Rural Sociology Group has been granted the coordination of a Marie Curie Initial Training Network  entitled ‘Urban, peri-urban and regional food dynamics: toward an integrated and territorial approach to food (PUREFOOD)’ funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework PEOPLE program. The PUREFOOD research and training programme aims to reduce the enormous knowledge and skills deficit that is negatively affecting the capacity to design and deliver appropriate political and developmental solutions in the crucial supra-disciplinary fields of food security, public food procurement, public health and sustainable urban and regional development. Hence, the objective of PUREFOOD is to train a pool of 12 early-stage researchers (ESRs) in the socio-economic and socio-spatial dynamics of the (peri-)urban and regional foodscape. The research and training program will therefore provide knowledge and innovation for the Commission’s aim to deal with economic, social and environmental policies in “mutually reinforcing ways” which reflects the core of the Lisbon and Gothenburg agenda’s call for integrated solutions towards economic prosperity, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. The PUREFOOD network is centred around food as an integrated and territorial mode of governance and studies the emergence of the (peri-)urban foodscape as an alternative (as opposed to a globalised) geography of food, including the ways in which, and the extent to which, sustainability aspects generally considered to be intrinsic to the alternative food geography are incorporated by the more conventional food companies.

The PUREFOOD Initial Training Network consists of 7  university partners who will each host one or more ESRs:

  1. Wageningen University - Rural Sociology Group (The Netherlands)
  2. Cardiff University - School of City and Regional Planning (United Kingdom)
  3. Pisa University Department of Agronomy and Agro-ecosystem Management (Italy)
  4. Latvia University Faculty of Social Sciences (Latvia)
  5. City University London Centre for Food Policy (United Kingdom)
  6. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul - Postgraduate Program in Rural Development (Brazil)
  7. Makerere University School of Public Health - Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences (Uganda)

In addition to these universities as full consortium partners, the PUREFOOD network consists of 8 associated partners, a combination of private firms, public authorities and civil society organisations:

  1. Peri-Urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE)
  2. Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform
  3. Sodexo UK
  4. Willem&Drees
  5. Slow Food Study Center
  6. Stroom Den Haag
  7. Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming
  8. Tukums municipality

The associated partners will contribute to the PUREFOOD training program by contributing to courses, participating in Communities of Practice and by hosting ESRs for a secondment. The active involvement of these associated partners is also of great importance for safeguarding the practical applicability of scientific research in the commercial, public as well as civic realm and for the dissemination of results.

The seven universities have opened (or soon will open) vacancies for 12 early-stage research positions. The launch of the vacancies has been announced on this weblog. As of now the PUREFOOD vacancy brochure with information about ESR projects, eligibility criteria, contact persons for additional information and addresses for submitting applications is available. For potential prospective ESRs an information pack has been compiled with information about the PUREFOOD research and training programme, the individual ESR projects, the timeline of the project and short descriptions of the full and associated consortium partners.

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

Second Sustainable Food Planning Conference – Reminder

As I announced in a blog on the 31st of March, the Urban Performance Group of the University of Brighton (UK) will host the second European Sustainable Food Planning Conference on 29 and 30 October 2010. Planning for sustainable food production and consumption is an increasingly important issue for planners, policymakers, designers, farmers, suppliers, activists, business and scientists alike. In the wider contexts of global climate change, a world population of 9 billion and growing, competing food production systems and diet-related public health concerns, are there new paradigms for urban and rural planning capable of supporting sustainable and equitable food systems? This conference will promote cross disciplinary discussions between active researchers and practitioners in response to this question, and related issues articulated during the first European Sustainable Food Planning Conference held in 2009 in Almere.

Working at a range of scales and with a variety of practical and theoretical models, we will review and elaborate definitions of sustainable food systems, and begin to define ways of achieving them. To this end 4 different themes have been defined as entry-points into the discussion of ‘sustainable food planning’. These are:

  1. Urban agriculture;
  2. Integrating health, environment and society;
  3. Food in urban and regional planning and design;
  4. Urban food governance

For each theme we are seeking contributions. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words, and e-mailed to Andre Viljoen ( no later than the 31st May 2010.

For more information, see the conference website.

Second European Sustainable Food Planning Conference

As a follow-up of the first European Sustainable Food Planning Conference, which took place on 9 and 10 October 2009 in Almere (The Netherlands), the Urban Performance Group of the University of Brighton (UK) will host the second European Sustainable Food Planning Conference on 29 and 30 October 2010. Like the first one, this second conference will be held under auspices of the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).

Context and aim

Planning for sustainable food production and consumption is an increasingly important issue for planners, policymakers, designers, farmers, suppliers, activists, business and scientists alike. In the wider contexts of global climate change, a world population of 9 billion and growing, competing food production systems and diet-related public health concerns, are there new paradigms for urban and rural planning capable of supporting sustainable and equitable food systems? Continue reading

Foodprint Sitopia

Foodprint logoOn Monday 3 November Stroom Den Haag (an independent centre focusing on the urban environment from the visual arts, architecture, urban planning and design) organized a small workshop as part of its program entitled ‘Foodprint – food for the city”. Foodprint takes place over the course of several years and focuses on the influence food can have on the culture, shape and functioning of the city, using The Hague as a case study. With a series of activities Stroom aims to increase people’s awareness of the value of food and to give new life to the way we view the relationship between food and the city.

The Hungry CityThe Foodprint program commenced on 25 March 2009 with a lecture by Carolyn Steel, author of the book “The Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives“. In this book she gives a beautiful account of the role of food in shaping urban development. In a nutshell she shows that the size and shape of cities were directly related to the amount and kinds of food that the rural hinterland could provide. For a long time this implied that there was a food provision related barrier to urban growth. However, with the introduction of modern production, transportation, processing, preservation and storage technologies, global agriculture became the city’s hinterland and thus the ‘natural barrier’ to urban growth disappeared. According to Carolyn Steel on her blog:

“One important consequence of this was that urban authorities began to loosen their grip on the food supply, relying more and more on commercial companies to feed the urban population. That might have seemed a good idea at the time, but the result today is that we are totally reliant on trans-national corporations to feed us, who have no civic responsibility and no interests at heart other than making money. That puts them in an extremely powerful position – especially when you consider how difficult it is to feed cities as large as those we now live in.”

Carolyn Steel shows, like others have done as well from complementary and partly overlapping perspectives (e.g. Tim Lang, Michael Pollan, James Howard Kunstler), that most contemporary urban dwellers have become disconnected from and ignorant about food provision and are too a large extent, if not completely, dependent on a global industrialized food provisioning system that is intrinsically unsustainable.

The Hungry City ends with a chapter about the future, in which the author asks how we can use food as a tool for re-thinking cities and the way we live in them. For this, she introduces the term Sitopia (a word based on a combination of the Greek words Sitos, meaning food, and Topos, meaning place, hence food-place):

“The world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.”

At the workshop we (i.e. Carolyn Steel, people working at Stroom Den Haag, scientists of different universities, architects, etc…) mainly discussed ideas and exchanged information about ongoing activities that are in one way or the other related to the notion of Sitopia. For me it was very interesting to exchange visions and experiences with disciplines (in particular visual arts and architecture) I normally do not interact with in education or research. And there was a shared desire to find ways to really collaborate, for instance by participating in each other’s projects. Although no concrete future plans were made, I do believe that workshops like this as well as the sustainable food planning conference I organized a month ago are the seeds of new interdisciplinary networks focusing on sustainable urban/regional foodscapes.

To learn more about Carolyn Steel’s vision on food and the city, I highly recommend her recent talk at the TED conference in Oxford.

Can farmers inform policy about multifunctional agriculture?

By Leonardo van den Berg (MSc. student International Development Studies, Wageningen University) & Klarien Klingen (graduate International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University).

On the 8th of October we participated in the mini-conference about multifunctional agriculture organized by the Rural Sociology Group. We would like to share some thoughts about the conference and relate them to our thesis research experiences in Brazil.

Gianluca Brunori spoke of the benefits of multifunctionality in Tuscany. Here, farms are not merely production spaces rather:

  • Educational sites where children learn about biodiversity and breeds of animals.
  • Sites where farmers are community leaders and negotiate with public institutions.
  • Sites where food quality is negotiated with consumers and subsequently created. This not only entails consumers’ feedback on wine but also farmers educating consumers on what other parts of a cow are edible.

These thoughts turn past and present public concerns of educating farmers upside down and coincide with our thesis experiences in Brazil, where we studied a movement of innovative peasants. Here, farmers refused to be assigned a role as a poor class and instead re-established their role as experts over production, consumption and the environment. Their knowledge, farming systems, and achievements surprised social and natural scientists.

Roberta Sonnino and Katrina Rønningen focused on state policies. Sonnino criticised the little support UK policy grants to multifunctional agriculture. She argues that the UK equates best value with low costs. The few developments in multifunctional agriculture have occurred despite rather than thanks of state action. An exception is the Scottish case where an increase in organic and locally produced school meals gained €150.000 of regional revenues. Rønningen showed us another picture: in Norway multifunctionality has been embedded in society for a long time. She says it started with market demand and that it is now supported by policy: the government aims at having 20% of the food locally produced by the year 2020. Farming as a profession is highly appreciated by the public: farmers are seen as managers of cultural heritage and as producers of healthy food.

Two things struck us about these two cases. First, the UK case shows how difficult it is to penetrate the neo-liberal armour that defines not only political but also much of our own rationality. Policies are often perceived as an obstacle rather than as enabling factors. It was this hostile context in which Brazilian peasants operated. Through diversification, agroecology, and community forms of exchange these peasants have increased their autonomy enabling them to pursue their own values. Second, the case of Norway gives us a taste of the role public policies could play in the valorisation of farmers as (re)producers of healthy food, nature, landscape, biodiversity, and public health. That most governments are lacking this is no secret, even according to a market oriented, middle size farmer in our research area:

I could fence a water source, buy some wire and provide some poles. If it were more, how do you say; all this imprisonment of all that is commerce, if it were more humane, looked more at the human side, I think there would be more left and all of society would gain from this (interview November 2009).

In short: we would argue that that the lessons from the third world should not be underestimated. Our experience learns that some of these cases may be running well ahead of theory and policy practice.

Terugblik kenniskringbijeenkomst: buitenlandse ervaringen multifunctionele landbouw

Op donderdag 8 oktober jl. organiseerde de vakgroep Rurale Sociologie van Wageningen Universiteit een discussiebijeenkomst in het kader van het onderzoeksproject: “Dynamiek en Robuustheid van Multifunctionele Landbouw”. De bijeenkomst kende het uitwisselen van buitenlandse ontwikkelingen en ervaringen met multifunctionele landbouw als doel en was met 70 deelnemers goed bezocht.

Een korte terugblik op de bijeenkomst en de presentaties van de internationale sprekers zijn te vinden op het weblog Dynamiek en Robuustheid van Multifunctionele Landbouw.

Discussiebijeenkomst buitenlandse ervaringen van multifunctionele landbouw

Sustainable Food Planning Conference

De KemphaanIn her recent blog, Petra already reflected on the Sustainable Food Planning Conference that was held in Almere (at De Kemphaan) on 9 and 10 October. My personal impression is that it was a very successful kick-off of the AESOP thematic group on sustainable food planning. In addition to lots of interesting presentations, there were interesting discussions and the strong will and desire among the participants to continue collaboration. One of the ways to continue collaboration is by means of an annual conference. Another is to create an electronic platform to facilitate exchange of experiences, examples, articles, reports, etc… Soon we will launch such a platform by means of a weblog similar to this one. For the time being, this post provides the links to the dowloads of the presentations and the discussion.

De Kemphaan, 9 and 10 October 2009, Almere, The Netherlands

The program
The participants
Presentation 1 Mr. Henk Mulder Including food and agriculture in urban planning: The Almere approach
Presentation 2 Prof. Han Wiskerke An integrated and territorial perspective on food studies, policy and planning
Presentation 3 Mr. Henk de Zeeuw Feeding the city: Practices, challenges and lessons from developing countries
Presentation 4 Prof. Gianluca Brunori Reconnecting consumers and producers: Dynamics, diversity and potentials of alternative food networks
Presentation 5 Dr Roberta Sonnino Urban food and public spaces: Planning for security and sustainability
Presentation 6 Dr Marin Caraher Food and the city: The links between food, public health and sustainable urban development
Presentation 7 Mrs. Lenie Dwarshuis Food and agriculture in Europe’s peri-urban regions
Presentation 8 Dr. Nevin Cohen The practice of food planning in New York City
Presentation 9 Mr. Bart Pijnenburg, MSc Amsterdam’s food strategy (“Proeftuin Amsterdam”)
Presentation 10 Prof. Jerry Kaufman Including food in planning studies and planning practices: Experiences from the USA
Report of the discussion

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