Saving the world – Cultivating the city: Invitation to the 14th Weihenstephan forum (21 & 22 October 2021)

How food production in the city contributes to a sustainable future

21 & 22 October, 2021 [Hybrid Event]

The industrialization of our global food system and growing urbanization not only exacerbate the effects of climate change and accelerate the loss of biodiversity, but also significantly cause the spatial and mental decoupling of food production and consumption.

Against the backdrop of the associated socio-ecological challenges, a “renaissance” of various forms of urban agriculture can be observed worldwide over the last decade, accompanied by the emergence of new multifunctional productive ecosystems in urban spaces. Especially in the Global North, the manifold forms and different dimensions of urban agriculture increasingly show potentials how negative effects along the food value chain can be reduced and how ecological, economic and social added values can be created.

The 14th Weihenstephan Symposium will therefore revolve around a provocative question:

“Urban agriculture – A trend phenomenon or transformative element for the development of resilient cities and food systems?”

To explore this controversial question, the professorship for Urban Productive Ecosystems at Technical University of Munich invites practitioners from science, business, politics and civil society to debate their expertise and experience in the form of keynote speeches and subsequent discussion. Different forms and aspects of urban production – their limits and potentials – will be critically examined and their practical potential discussed from ecological, social and economic points of view.

We invite you to participate in the forum and discuss with us – participation is open to the interested public.

Registration & Participation

Due to the current Covid-19 related regulations, the event will take place hybrid, i.e., with a limited number of participants at TUM Campus Weihenstephan in Freising (Konferenzsaal iGZW, 3G rules apply) and the possibility to participate in the full program via Zoom. Please note that registration for on-site participation is required by October 18 to allow for planning the logistics and catering according to Covid rules. All admitted registrants will receive final information and the access link for Zoom closer to the event. The event will be held partly in German (GER) and partly in English (ENG) with no simultaneous translation. It is open to all and is free of charge.

Registration for participation in presence or in digital form for both event days: https://wiki.tum.de/display/WeiFo21Reg/Registrierung+-+Weihenstephaner+Forum+2021

If you have any questions, please contact stefanie.burger@tum.de.

Imaginary futures of food provisioning practices in peri-urban areas – Martin Ruivenkamp

Since a couple of months, I’m employed as postdoc researcher by the Rural Sociology Group and assigned to the project Urbanising in Place, a selected project of the Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) that is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET Cofund scheme. Let me introduce myself to you, but I’m interested in getting to know you too! So, please do not hesitate to contact me at martin.ruivenkamp@wur.nl.

I do feel ‘at home’ at the Rural Sociology group. Surely, this might be related to the fact that I heard many good stories about Rural Sociology from people close to me… And, the work carried out by members of Rural Sociology intrigue me and motivate me to contribute to the three themes RSO focuses on: 1) the development of ecological and socially sustainable agrarian and food policies by studying the role of agricultural and rural activities, products and services in metropolitan and peri-urban regions; 2) the identification and reconfiguration of modes of connectivity between the production and consumption of food, by taking a multidimensional approach to food and reconnecting food to the social, cultural and environmental context of food provisioning practices; 3) the generation of images and narratives of ‘other’ values that build on a reappropriation of space through practices that reflect both rural-urban differences and symbiosis and overcome commoditisation of rurality. These themes link up nicely, however maybe creatively, to my previous meanderings through the landscape of social science. Looking back, the pathway that emerged through my wanderings in the fields of social psychology (MSc in 2004), sociology (Ba in 2005), and Science and Technology Studies (PhD in 2011; postdoc research since 2013) foregrounds my interests in the interwovenness of the real and imaginary, the practised and the envisioned and I look forward to apply these concepts as a lens for exploring food provisioning practices in peri-urban areas. I will further elaborate these issues within the contexts of ‘Urbanising in Place’ project. This project investigates how small-scale food provisioning practices on the metropolitan fringe, threatened by ever-expanding urbanisation dynamics, may be reimagined and reconfigured in such ways that rather than being pushed out of metropolitan areas they can be enabled to claim an active role in managing the food-water-energy nexus in the (near) future. Within the confinements of the overall research programme I am not to take the future as an extension of a dominant now, but rather to explore the envisioning of various potentialities of multitudinous futures and investigate how to shift perspective from the obvious, mainstream food system, to the multitude of food provisioning practices, developing and emerging from ‘below’ and how to appraise their roles in social and ecological sustainable futures.

Aside from the above, my roots also explain my contentment to have become part Rural Sociology. As a kid, I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents in Italy. Being originally peasants from Calabria (a region in the ‘poor’ southern parts of Italy) who for economic reasons had migrated to the ‘rich’ north of Italy, working the land was part of their being. Therefore, next to a small two-room apartment in the centre of smoggy Milan, where my grandfather had started a restaurant serving traditional Calabrian food, they had a cottage in the hills of Alessandria (one and a half hour drive from Milan). Here they had an orchard with various fruit trees (apricots, peaches, prunes, cherries), a vineyard and they grew their own vegetables. I always loved to climb the trees and pick and eat the fruit while sitting in the trees and have lunch with the whole family underneath the umbrella pine close to the house. My grandma processed the tomatoes and basil from the garden into pasta sauce, which, with the fresh homemade pasta she made, needed just a little parmesan cheese to make it taste beautiful. The wine came directly from the neighbours and was made partly with the grapes my grandfather grew. Also, years later, when my grandparents had to sell the cottage and were stuck in their two-room apartment, my grandmother kept huge basil plants on the balcony, which, with an open window, smelled up the whole living room. My grandfather rented a small plot next to a power station a couple of blocks from their house, to be able to continue to work the field and grow his tomatoes. In Milan, due to his connections in the catering industry, he sometimes was able to obtain from friends ‘Sardella’, a typical fish conserve from Calabria – also known as ‘Poor man’s caviar’.

These memories, the smells and tastes are to my opinion important points of focus manifested in studies of regional food dynamics, diverse modes of food provisioning (in peri-urban and urban areas) and interlinked food networks (as in this case emerging from migration flows). I do believe in the relevancy of giving affective credence to food knowledge, food appreciation and consciousness in the identification and generation of socially just and ecologically sustainable food futures. And, I hope, without sounding too histrionic, in the coming three years to be able to combine ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ and form new personal pathways that contribute – e.g. through action research approaches – to the identification of diversity, making visible the potentialities of unconventional food practices, broadening the scientific, policy-oriented and public visions of food provisioning activities and advancing multiple food futures and policy decisions. In elaborating these ‘small-scale’ ambitions I guess I will very much appreciate an automatic wifi connection.