RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


112 Organising Food Access: Community Food, Governance and Place (3): Post-Graduate Reflections on Food Volunteerism, Activism and Self-Organisation
Affiliation Food Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Rebecca Sandover (University of Exeter, UK)
Mags Adams (University of Salford, UK)
Chair(s) Mags Adams (University of Salford, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract The increase of community food projects based in the UK and globally affords the opportunity for academics to explore the emergent governance of these projects. Whilst ad hoc place-based groups emerge in specific locales, the spread of formalised community food focused projects with national and global reach also impact localised communities. These differing spheres of operation may affect the potential of these projects to impact policy and praxis and their potential to disseminate food knowledge. Therefore this session seeks to explore the role of community food projects as catalysts in generating food knowledge and in shaping ‘access to food’ governance. In what way do the differing levels of formalised structures and reach change how community food projects operate? This session will - Critically examine community food projects as actants for enabling food justice - How the governance of local food projects affect their engagements with local communities and shaping policy - Examine the tensions between food knowledge diffusion and the differing modes of organisation of community food projects - Critically examine the role of place itself as a melting pot of opportunities for access to food and generating food knowledge - Question the extent to which community food projects transcend place boundaries to generate wider impacts and cross the seeming gulf of urban vs rural food research - Examine the modes by which academics research community food projects and the role of the practitioner-researcher

Linked Sessions Organising Food Access: Community Food, Governance and Place (1): Transformative Food Practices and The Producer-Consumer Nexus
Organising Food Access: Community Food, Governance and Place (2): Food Knowledge, Food Justice and bridging the Rural-Urban divide
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Getting my hands dirty: methodological reflections on an in-depth ethnography of two Community Supported Agriculture projects in the UK
Ian Humphrey (The University of Sheffield, UK)
In this paper I describe a 2-year ethnographic immersion in two Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects. After outlining my central research question and why ethnography was the best methodological approach, I discuss how I identified my two case studies; give a brief description of each research setting; and describe the extended process of negotiating access as a "friendly outsider". I then depict my protracted Participant Observation including my role on the executive body of both case studies. I describe how I assisted in the execution and reproduction of each CSA project respectively as Treasurer, Member without Portfolio, and volunteer on the growing sites, and my broader contribution to each case study as a 'scholar-advocate'. I reflect on the methodological ambiguities of ethnography including: the "insider/outsider" perspective and hybrid researcher identities; ethical conflicts that arose in my dual role of 'scholar-advocate'; the challenges and rewards of doing comparative research of two contrasting case studies; and the tension between being an authentic participant and doing effective research. I argue that, in the context of community food projects such as CSAs, ethnographic methodology is productive and insightful. However, it is also a messy and uneasy process that demands sustained reflexivity and a constant (re-)negotiation of inter-personal subjectivities. Following Luttrell, I maintain that it is sufficient to be 'a "good enough" researcher' who is able to 'accept rather than defend against healthy tensions in fieldwork' (2000:515).
Shoots and leaves – fragile sustainability of urban food growing projects working with marginalised people in the UK
Sam Ramsden (University of Hull, UK)
This research explores issues of sustainability, governance, participation and local democracy through a case study of an urban food growing project in a deprived area of Hull. The project was managed by a local civil society organisation (CSO) and included the development of a community garden, helping local families grow food in their homes, working with refugees, and supporting a citywide free cooked food event. The project successfully engaged marginalised people, building a strong team of volunteers who wanted to give back to their community. Research has been conducted through a researcher embedded with the project. Participants have strongly voiced many benefits including improving mental health, reducing isolation, accessing nature, reducing food poverty, and providing education to children. Activities were not described as political activism – but described as improving self-reliance and being an 'antidote to austerity'. There is little available funding to continue activities. However, different groups, connected in fluid ways, are trying to continue different aspects of the work, including the managing CSO, staff from the project developing a new CSO as volunteers, and volunteers who are carrying on work at the community garden. However, each effort is in its early stages and are fragile without support: e.g. volunteers need ongoing support to help them navigate systems to become established and their land tenure is not secure. However, will donors and government find ways to support vulnerable local residents who have benefitted from these activities but would not normally participate in the public sphere or voice their demands?
Urban Agriculture: Concepts and Transcending Space
Ross Young (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Interest in Urban Agriculture (UA) is on the rise. Research into UA has begun to uncover the different ways that UA manifests and the potential impact these sites can have be it environmental, sociological, nutritional or political (Kato, Passidomo, & Harvey, 2014; Ohyama, Takagaki, & Kurasaka, 2008; Parmer, Salisbury-Glennon, Shannon, & Struempler, 2009; Pitt, 2014). While some forms of UA are well known and established within cities such as allotments and community gardens, others like community-supported agriculture and urban healing gardens are more novel and research is still in its infancy. In addition to the different forms of UA, there are a number of characteristics beginning to emerge in the literature, which can further diversify projects. Characteristics like political engagement, entrepreneurialism, land tenure and education. While definitions for UA in its various forms have been offered (Certoma, 2015; Cone & Myhre, 2000; Guitart, Pickering, & Byrne, 2013; Hardman, 2014; Reynolds, 2015), there has yet to be a study that attempts to encompass all of the different aspects of UA and how they can manifest and differ between projects. This research aims to test a more detailed way to describe UA projects beyond rigid terms and a food production focus. This research will do this by exploring the diverse UA practice on sites across Scotland using a typology based on a prior structured literature review of UA. The work hopes to personify some of the distinct characteristics uncovered by the literature review and will use the results to further refine the initial typology. Overall, this work aspires to develop more detailed definitions that showcase the potential of UA beyond an alternative method of food production.
'<3 Your Local Market ': local produce markets as hubs of place based food expertise and community capacity
Rebecca Jones (Prifysgol Bangor University, UK)
Eifiona Thomas Lane (Prifysgol Bangor University, UK)
Local produce markets are unique spaces where knowledge and understanding of the values and processes associated with food production and local economy are both traded and freely shared. A study of a range of traditional and newly established markets was undertaken to investigate the contention that they are hubs of food production where performances of place based food cultures facilitate informal and lasting exchanges of traditional understandings of foods and drink. Adopting a participative approach along-side more traditional methods of research required significant reflection on the practitioner-researcher position and their influence throughout the study methodology, analysis and dissemination of findings to all stakeholders. The markets' differing administrative contexts and governance-funding-policy systems were considered and also the experiences of the market visitors. The paper describes how local food markets should be valorized as significant repositories of irreplaceable social capital and distinctive food heritage. The paper concludes by evaluating the functionality of such places of food significance and local community based economy. This strongly suggests the merit of continued support for local agora or food hubs - a development which is not implicit within the broader political and industry context of the Food from Wales for Wales Action Plan.
Just food or just about the food: food saving as means for social and ecological justice, self-determination, and self-reliance
Mustafa Hasanov (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Where there is food, there is also waste. The problem is not the availability of food but the surplus of food that hardly makes it to our tables. Often, edible food gets discarded or is left uneaten. The increase of community food projects, such as food saving and sharing initiatives bring new opportunities for local governments, which need to react quickly on the new aspirations of community-based initiatives. On the contrary, local food initiatives offer insights into issues of justice and inclusiveness, as well as question the overall contribution to a wide societal change. This article seeks to investigate how deeds of community initiatives contribute to the creation of just spaces where sharing a meal is an idealistic way-out from consumerism. The example of The Free Café, a place-based food saving and sharing initiative that serves free meals cooked from 'saved food' is used to examine the potential of relatively autonomous self-organized food sharing initiatives to impact local policy and also to highlight intangible aspects of justice pertaining to food. The findings suggest that although socially constructed around food, The Free Café is not just about the food. Aspects of inclusion and social justice are the foremost intangible values around which the initiative is founded and food being the tangible reflection of those values. The article is part of a larger project looking at processes of self-organization that underpin community-led responses to climate change in cities and the emerging alliances between the local state and civil society.