RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


11 The Food Rurality Nexus
Affiliation Rural Geography Research Group
Food Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Hannah Brooking (University of Leicester, UK)
Chair(s) Keith Halfacree (Swansea University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract This session will explore nexus relations between food and rurality. In the 1980s and 1990s, rural geography was closely associated with the geographies of agricultural food production, although during the latter decade a series of new ingredients were stirred into the constitution of rural studies, including many that seemed to have little or no connection with agricultural geographies. Despite some efforts to forge some lines of connection (e.g. Morris & Evan 1999; Cheshire 2012), the geographies of food and the geographies of rurality have often been examined in isolation from one another, particularly empirically where food geographies have increasingly focused on areas beyond the rural, and also in the theoretical registers being used. The emergence of nexus thinking, however, may provide an opportunity for recognising new connections, interdependencies, trade-offs and tensions between food and rurality. The demands of the globalised food-supply chains, for instance, may transform, create unsustainable demands on or detrimentally impact a range of human and more-than-human constituents of rural space, including water courses, soils, plants, wildlife, landscapes, and human communities. The rural, or images and imaginings of the rural, may be crucial in the marketing of food, travelling together to places that are far from their rural places of origin, as well as potentially attracting people into particular rural localities.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Assessing food chain performance from a consumer perspective: relations between place of residence and consumer knowledge and practice
Damian Maye (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
James Kirwan (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Daniel Keech (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Dilshaad Bundhoo (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Previous studies have shown that consumer knowledge about food differs between urban and rural groups. This relationship between place of residence and food consumption knowledge needs to be further examined and it provides the focus for this paper. Consumer work was undertaken to examine similarities and differences between urban and rural consumer groups in relation to cheese consumption practices and knowledge. Four consumer focus groups, two in a rural location and two in an urban location, were carried out in October 2014. The focus groups explored consumer issues about their choices in relation to available information, their knowledge and behaviour in relation to cheese buying and household use, price, nutritional knowledge about cheese and how this influences purchasing and understandings of localness and globalness and the role these issues play in cheese consumption choices. Differences between urban and rural consumers are evident, including: greater awareness of production practices, animal welfare and milk price challenges amongst rural participants, with taste the key factor in urban groups and price and convenience also prominent. Similarities between urban and rural consumer perceptions and behaviours are also notable, with consumers of the same household profile tending to behave similarly in terms of purchasing patterns. Consumers generally were not so interested in the production side, including the scale of production. Only more informed participants seem to look at the production side in any detail, a feature which was more evident in the rural focus groups. Place of residence therefore appears to influence geographical knowledges; however, the evident ambivalence in these data regarding consumption practices warns against applying overly simplistic spatial framings.
Which whey is sustainable?
Hannah Brooking (University of Leicester, UK)
This paper is going to focus on the notions of eco-localism and the sustainable intensification of cheese from farm to fork. With regard to these two notions, a lot of the focus in the literature has been on the farm or the dairy but in this study I seek to explore their applicability to the study of the production, distribution and consumption of cheese, moving beyond the farm gate. Cheese is notoriously unsustainable, as on average 10 litres of milk is needed to make just 1kg of hard cheese and there are concerns over the amounts of methane and other greenhouse gas emissions as well as environmental waste across the network. Cheese is important for sustaining rural livelihoods and important for employment, especially in the context of concerns over milk prices, falling farm incomes and reductions in dairy farming. Many dairy farmers are therefore looking to diversify and add value to their milk production, by turning to cheesemaking. The Specialist Cheesemakers Association (SCA) has recorded an increase in both enquiries from dairy farmers and new members joining (Specialist Cheese makers Association, 2015). This paper explores eco-localist and sustainably intensified networks from production to consumption drawing on actor network theory, interviews and ethnographic observations collecting information on sustainability challenges within milk production, cheesemaking, distribution and sales. The paper concludes by reflecting on the nexus relations embodied across the cheese network and their relationships to rural environments and communities.
'Pryd a mwy' - more than a meal, reflections on inter-generational experiences of a place based, traditional Welsh food culture
Eifiona Thomas Lane (Prifysgol Bangor University, UK)
Arwel Jones (Bangor University, UK)
Rebecca Jones (Prifysgol Bangor University, UK)
Through informal engagement and the facilitated sharing of a meal event with young people of the community, lay communication of food based images, practices and ingredients were recorded to investigate whether intergenerational learning would allow a characterisation of key elements of the undescribed commonplace of the rural food system. The communal meal (and more) enabled a participatory exploration of inter-generational exchanges about the hidden, rare traditional every day practices that constitute a remnant yet still living memory of rural Welsh life. Re-tellings of childhood stories, memories of family loved and foraged foods captured the essence of a distinctively localised Welsh food culture. In this locale mealtimes generally remain a shared family experience and for many participants, was rooted in pockets of local production and consumption. Using community events and stakeholder workshops, the study questioned whether a broader investigation into traditional food values and equity could be useful in demonstrating how lay understandings are shared across generations in the face of a more globalised food culture of apparent choice and processed heritage. Future food policy development would subsequently be based on a fuller appreciation of the uniqueness of everyday local foods.
This discourse is clearly missing from current food and drink 'from Wales' directives, despite being clearly and profitably articulated within media debates. Such traditional values and local histories can clearly inform and vitally broaden theoretical contexts that inform the building more resilient local food systems, cultural resilience and also address the oft framed contradictory development of the authentic and distinctive within rural food and farm based tourism.
City horticulture – rural identity: local food in Bath and Bamberg
Daniel Keech (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Marc Redepenning (Otto-Friedrich Universität, Germany)
Bath (UK) and Bamberg (Germany) bear comparison in terms of size, population, topography, UNESCO-recognised architecture and a history of urban horticulture. Although market gardening in Bath has mostly disappeared, in Bamberg a 650-year long tradition of commercial horticulture forms, as the Gärtnerstadt (Gardeners' Quarter), one element of Bamberg's World Heritage status. In each place, urban identities are informed through the cities' relationship with rural framings of local food. In Bamberg, tradition and kinship is guarded by brewers and gardeners who are closely bound to regular urban customers and direct suppliers in nearby 'Franconian Switzerland'. However, in the light of low-priced and non-local competition, deep-rooted, parochial rivalries between gardener fraternities inhibit mutual co-operation. In Bath – where the council's 'local food strategy' aims to support agricultural jobs and enhance the health of disadvantaged urban dwellers– the absence of city production requires a spatially extended view of 'local'. The council, over several years, has supported producer collaborations to supply public kitchens while low-margin commodity production prevails outside the city. Meanwhile, local pubs – including some used by activists who embrace urban gardening as a route to system transition – rely on larger, regional chains for marketing the South-West's reputation for good food. The authors wish to build on these experiences to explore: (i) How rural spatial semantics are deployed to signify quality via the food systems of provincial cities; (ii) Variations in how this sense of rurality is valued by municipal authorities;(iii) How a food-rurality nexus might help to overcome urban-consumer vs. rural-producer binaries.
Identifying the geography of UK Farm Shops
Robert Geary-Griffin (University of Leicester, UK)
To date it is unknown whether in the UK the farm business diversification enterprises known collectively as Farm Shops possess a shared geography. Farm Shops are not typically sited in routine retail environs, tending to be located 'in the country' on the related farm's land. This research builds on the findings of a survey conducted into the nature of UK Farm Shops which focused on a range of topics: Location and duration of the enterprise, Farm type, Connection to farming household, Produce offered, Employees, Service convenience, Advertising, Learning curve, Complimentary/competing local enterprises, Other diversifications pursued, Financial aspects. The volunteer sample was drawn from an opportunity pool of vetted high visibility farm business enterprises that advertised as self-identifying Farm Shops. Various secondary data sources were employed to give greater context to the Farm Shop mapping: UK Census boundary data, Rural/Urban classification, Socioeconomic status, Age spread demographic, Agricultural practice etc. Two separate Farm Shop pools were mapped, first was the total opportunity pool of vetted Farm Shops that had been compiled prior to conducting the survey. This enabled for a more robust exploration into the existence of common geographical features. Second was the total volunteer pool of Farm Shops that consisted solely of the enterprises from whom completed surveys had been received. This allowed for the richer integration of factors of interest identified during the survey analysis that benefited from exploratory mapping. The findings have provided greater insight into the geography of UK Farm Shops.