Harvesting Care: Reflections on Sustainable Farming

The summer of 2022 is marked by farmers’ protests, sky high temperatures and huge forest fires. This presses us to rethink our ideas of ecological resilience and re-invent our ways of dealing with nature and food-provisioning. How can we create a more sustainable and caring system for both humans and nature? This NIAS Talk looks into the interaction between urban farming practices and care. What can city gardens mean for our food provisioning, and our ideas about sustainability and care in urban environments?

Although there is a consensus that something has to change to ensure life on this planet, lawmakers encounter heavy resistance in attempts to tackle global warming. In the Netherlands, angry farmers marched the streets and installed blockades to prevent their farms to be remediated. Their key position in the food providing chain, they argue, should not be overseen. This begs the question: what would happen if we re-image our food system? And is there a way to bring together farmers and (a more) ecological food production?

This event takes city gardens and urban farming initiatives as a starting point to talk about innovative future-proof solutions. In Amsterdam alone, there are over 40 kitchen gardens. These spaces provide cool green spaces, social contact, and food. What do these local initiatives mean to our ideas about food provisioning and care?

Together with environmental historians, sociologists and urban farmers, we will explore the possibilities of self-provisioning in cities. What can we learn from these practices and how can they help us create a more sustainable and future-proof (city) environment?

About the speakers

Kate Brown is Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Massachusetts Institute for Technology at Boston, USA (MIT). From September to January she will be a fellow at NIAS, where she will be working on a book on self-provisioning in urban little gardens. Brown’s research interests illuminate the point where history, science, technology and bio-politics converge to create large-scale disasters and modernist wastelands. Based on her extensive knowledge in this field, she will share some thoughts and reflections on the history and future of urban farming.

Esther Veen is Lecturer of Urban Food Issues at the Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere. Veen is an expert in food in urban areas. In her current position, Veen works closely with Flevo Campus where her research focusses on how the ‘foodscape’ can stimulate a more sustainable and healthy diet.

Ruben Jacobs is a sociologist, writer and lecturer at the Utrecht University of the Arts. He is a columnist for Brainwash and presents the podcast series De Groene Eeuw. In the past he worked as a journalist for Dutch public broadcast companies (VPRO, NTR). His most recent book De eeuw van Felix (2021) explores the ways in which we can ensure a liveable planet for future generations.

Anna Kooi is a Food Sociologist and socially engaged chef. Her work interconnects food studies with food work in its myriad manifestations, ranging from anti-food waste activism, gastronomy and participatory art to installation and performance. Since 2019, she has been part of Cascoland, Colaboratory Kitchen, Slow Food Youth Network, Food Council MRA and Taste Before You Waste. Currently, she is following a preparatory PhD-trajectory at Wageningen University and an MA in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.

Zará Kars (moderator) is a Public Historian. She works as Programme maker & Event Manager at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.

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