8th – Coventry (UK) 2017

The 8th conference of the AESOP Sustainable Food Planning group was hosted by Dr Chiara Tornaghi, at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, Coventry, UK on the 14-15 November 2017 (with a pre-conference programme for early career researchers on the 13th November).

Click here to download the book of abstract and the conference proceedings. A book is currently in preparation with Routledge (foreseen publication: winter 2019/spring 2020).

We report here below the concept of the conference:

Re-imagining sustainable food planning, building resourcefulness: Food movements, insurgent planning and heterodox economics”


After seventeen years from its early conceptualisation, and ten years on from its institutionalisation (Van der Valk and Viljoen 2014), sustainable food planning is a thriving transdisciplinary research and policy field bringing together policy makers, academics, and practitioners across the globe. Food charters, food strategies and food policy councils have multiplied, ‘alternative food networks’ have gained significant and growing shares of the food market and new forms of localisation of food production, including urban agriculture, are gaining ground and becoming central components of new food policy strategies.

Yet, the scale and speed of the ‘food’ crisis make us see these achievements as modest and utterly inadequate. Urban food poverty and malnutrition, and the related use of food banks, are on the rise even in some of the most wealthy countries of the world; the most vulnerable populations in both the global North and South are unshielded by austerity politics, food-commodity speculation, land grabbing or staple food price rises. Diet-related diseases (such as diabetes and obesity) are growing at alarming rates among children in the supposedly ‘well-fed’ countries of the world. We still waste between 30% and 50% of the food we produce while millions of farmers and land workers growing our food across the globe are struggling to make a living. And the environmental impacts of our food ‘regime’ and diets are devastating.

Planning for sustainable food production and food provision is more than ever urging us to look for more effective, equitable and just approaches that radically change not only the way we grow food, but the very core of our living space.

This 8th annual conference of the AESOP sustainable food planning group is dedicated to discussing ideas, approaches and practices that can help to re-invent food planning in light of the need to build a resourceful, agroecological, urbanism.

Inspired by a seminal paper from Derickson and MacKinnon (2013), we use the term ‘resourceful’ as a particular way of intending the concept of ‘resilience’: an urbanism that creates the conditions for its inhabitants to control the means of their social reproduction, to have a say on, or directly control, the resources for their own survival; a space where land, water and nutrients serve the needs of the people (rather than profit), while respecting the ecosystem. A ‘resourceful’ urbanism creates living conditions that enable people to be resilient while at the same time challenging the root causes of the crisis that require us to look for resilience.

With ‘agroecological’ we explicitly refer to practices aligned to ‘peasant agroecology’ and the agroecology movement: a way of cultivating the soil, managing ecological relations and disposing of the produce that respects the environment and is based on cultural and social arrangements inspired by solidarity and mutuality.

By ‘urbanism’ we refer to more than just buildings, zoning or planning. We refer to ensembles of the built environment and its regulation, the material infrastructure and the collective arrangements (for food provision, waste collection, land management, urban design, housing, energy and so forth) that are in place and to which we are all subjected. We include the urban, the peri-urban and the rural realm, and reflect on their mutual interconnections and dependencies.

While food has entered the planning agenda more than a decade ago, a resourceful and agroecological urbanism –which is more than closing metabolic loops through urban agriculture – is yet to be conceptualised. An urbanism in which food is not the latest ‘fix’ to be added as a new way to market, but rather a key and long forgotten component around which new and just social arrangements, ecological practices and ways of life must be reinvented.

In this conference we look for contributions that valorise and bring to the fore the multiplicity of marginal, residual, heterodox or unheard experiences, policies, concepts and practices that are already creating new worlds in innovative and socially just ways, and/or bear the potential of becoming building blocks of sustainable food planning for a resourceful, agroecological, urbanism.

We are also interested in critical contributions that reflect on how current mainstream approaches to food production, food strategies and urban agriculture can be/are being radically transformed into tools for resourcefulness.

Presentations can have a practical, theoretical, political or methodological focus.

We particularly look for critical contributions that address one or more of the following five sub-themes:

  1. theoretical re-conceptualisations of urbanism (and its peri-urban and rural surroundings) in relation to food planning (including discussions on the interlink between new and old urban and agrarian questions; critical discussions on planetary urbanisation, post-suburbia, insurgent urbanism; new ontological and epistemological definitions of urbanism; etc.)
  2. political processes and strategies (urban political agroecology; pathways for radicalising and/or steering local, national or global agri-food strategies; experiences of people’s led urban food policies and planning;  justice and rights-based legal challenges; urban-based food, water and land access movements; experiences linking agrarian and urban food sovereignty movements; community self-organisation; etc.)
  3. resourceful land management (including, for example, land reforms and land tax; common good land use; regulation or incentives that turns urban vacant spaces into food producing sites; regulation of private property rights in relation to land depletion and environmental degradation; innovative waste and nutrients management in urban areas; land and water rights; urban metabolism; innovative and radical ways to reshape urban-rural links);
  4. urban agroecological practices (including for example experiences that experiment with food producing and socio-environmentally just urban agriculture, urban agroforestry, urban permaculture, organic indoor production, rooftop and vertical growing, edible public space; foraging-enabling urban planning and design; urban water management; etc.);
  5. post-capitalist economics (including food de-commodification, solidarity and shared economy, micro-farming, urban patchwork farms, community kitchens, food commoning and conviviality, alternative currencies, new urban commons sharing food, housing, and livelihoods, etc.…),

We are open to receiving papers that draw either from the Global North or the Global South, but we also encourage contributions that reflect on the cross fertilisation and reciprocal learning among these geographical contexts.

We would like to tailor as many sessions as possible to the needs and language of non-academics such as local policy makers, practitioners and activists. Please indicate if you are willing to do so when sending your abstract.

Some of our plenary speakers:

Emily Mattheisen (FIAN International)

Emily Mattheisen works with FIAN International, an international NGO working to protect and promote the human right to adequate food and nutrition. At FIAN Emily supports the work on human rights accountability and coordinates the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition. Emily also works on the linkages between the Right to Food and the Right to the City, urban and territorial policy and accountability, and prior to working with FIAN, she was also part of technical task team which developed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.

Heather Anderson (Whitmuir Organics/Nourish Scotland)

Heather Anderson, together with her husband, Pete Ritchie, have been running Whitmuir Farm organically since 2000.  In 2006 they diversified their mixed upland beef and sheep farm and opened their first farm shop.  In 2009 they opened a larger farm shop with butchery and cafe and host 3 other businesses on the farm, employing some 30 people. They have campaigned relentlessly for the benefits of organic food production systems and reconnecting people with their food.  They currently operate the 2000m2 project on the farm – which combines community growing, cooking, food waste collection and composting with educational work on the global and local food systems.  Pete is Director of Nourish Scotland, which campaigns to transform the food system in Scotland and Heather is now also a local authority councillor.  Both have advocated land reform and systemic change to the food system in Scotland and played their part in building the case for a Good Food Nation Bill in the Scottish Parliament

Michiel Dehaene (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Michiel Dehaene (1971) (Ph D KULeuven 2002, MAUD 1997 Harvard University, Master Engineer-Architect 1994 KULeuven) is associate professor at the department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University, where he teaches courses in urban analysis and design. His work focuses on the epistemology of urbanism, dispersed urbanization, and the grounding of design thinking in urban poltical ecology.

Chiara Tornaghi (Coventry University, UK)

Chiara Tornaghi is a critical human geographer and scholar-activist with a background in politics, sociology and planning. After graduating in Political Science (2001, State University of Milan), she obtained her PhD in Applied Sociology and Social Research Methods (2005, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy), and a Postgraduate Certificate in European Spatial Planning (2006, University of Newcastle, UK). Chiara has worked as lecturer and researcher at the University of Leeds (2008-15), TU Vienna (2009-10), University of Milano-Bicocca (2005-08) and Politecnico di Milano (2008). Since 2015 she works at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, Coventry (UK) as Research Fellow in Urban Food Sovereignty and Resilience. Her recent work revolves around urban agroecology, food justice, and the politics of urban land. Her most recent publication is: Tornaghi C. (2017) “Urban Agriculture in the food-disabling city: (Re) defining urban food justice, reimagining a politics of empowerment” in the journal Antipode (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anti.12291/full)

Special events

We have arranged a number of special events before, during and after the conference. Before the conference: Phd workshop (9am-5pm) and ‘Meet and Greet’ drink (informal gathering 6-8pm). During the conference: Launch of International Forum for Agroecological Urbanism (day 1, morning), Book launch, aperitif, Social Dinner and music performance, free of charge for all registered delegates (day 1, evening), Radical methodologies Track (sessions on both day 1 and 2 of the conference).  After the conference: Launch of Coventry Food Charter (Thursday 16th November, evening). Please see details below:

Pre-conference PhD students event (pre-registered only) 

On Monday 13th November (09:30-16:30), at Square One (Coventry University, Priory Street, CV1 5QP), those who have pre-registered for this event will engage in a day-long self-run event. This informal meeting attempts to gather PhD students and young professionals eager to share their stories as well as learn from experienced researchers and experts in the field of food systems sustainability.


10.00-12.00 Warming up: Interactive training session with focus on personal skills
12.00-13.00 Lunch (a map with places to have lunch will be provided)
13.00-14.30 Masterclass with expert (Kevin Morgan, is available till app. 16.00)
14.30-14.50 Break
14.50-16.00 Topic discussion, discussion in groups about the topics Kevin Morgan did touch upon
16.00-16.15 Wrap up from Berlin and prevision of next Workshop (Portugal) and Webinars

Meet and greet

Monday 13th November 18:00 – 20:00
Venue: Drapers Bar and Kitchen (directions here: see it on google map)

If you’ve just arrived and fancy a bite to eat whilst getting to know some new people, then why not come down to “Drapers Bar and Kitchen” where CAWR staff as well as other conference attendees will meet to network and/or catch up! From Drapers, there are many exciting restaurants that you can try, here are some of our suggestions:

  • Al-Bader: Lebanese (0.1 mile)
  • Habibi: Arabian (0.4 mile)
  • Tumeric Gold: Indian (0.6 mile)

Launch of the International Forum for an Agroecological Urbanism

Tuesday 14th November, 9.45-11.00 am (Opening Plenary Keynote speech, venue: Technocentre).
What if solidarity, mutual learning, interspecies (more than human) exchanges, environmental stewardship, food sovereignty and people’s resourcefulness were the principles of a new paradigm for urbanisation? How would urban design, property regimes, food provision, collective services, and the whole ensemble of planning and socio-technical arrangements change, if they were informed by urban agroecology?
How can we begin to radically transform the food disabling urban landscapes that have systematically displaced food production, recovering both historical food growing practices and imagining new urban arrangements?
The call for papers for this 8th Annual Conference of the Sustainable Food Planning group has been shaped on the intellectual and social aims of the International Forum for a resourceful, reproductive and agroecological urbanism, which will be launched at the conference.
Chiara Tornaghi’s and Michiel Dehaene’s joint opening keynote speech (Tuesday 14th November, 9.45-11.00 am) will illustrate the thinking behind the Forum.
They contend that agroecology contains the political, social and ecological foundations for a radically alternative model of urbanisation – what they call a resourceful, reproductive and agroecological urbanism.

Radical methodologies track

Tuesday and Wednesday, Technocentre.
We have a whole track of sessions at the conference proposing alternative methodologies for research, action and reflexivity on food sovereignty and justice. These includes arts, performing arts, sensory sessions. One of these require to sign up before hand. See details and link in the programme.

Book launch “Meet the authors” (originally planned for Monday -please note this is now on Tuesday) and social dinner

Tuesday night is our social event. We will provide food and entertainment at no extra costs for all registered delegates. The social evening will start with a series of short presentations and then a possibility to meet the authors (and publishers) while drinks and canapés are served. These are the publications that will be presented:

  • Everyday Experts: How People’s Knowledge Can Transform the Food System (People’s Knowledge Collective)
  • Public Policies for Food Sovereignty: Social Movements and the State (Aurelie Desmarais, A, Claeys, P., Trauger, A.)
  • Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2017 The World Food Crisis: The Way Out 10th Anniversary Issue
  • Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Beyond (Chappell, J.)
  • Food Sovereignity, Agroecology and Biocultural Diversity (Pimbert, M.)
  • Forest Gardening in Practice (Remiarz, T.)
  • Gender, Nutrition, and the Human Right to Adequate Food: Toward an Inclusive Framework (Bellows, A., Valente, F., Lemke, S. and Maria Daniela Nunez Burbano de Lara)
  • Political Ecology, Food Regimes, and Food Sovereignty: Crisis, Resistance, and Resilience (Tilzey, M.)
  • Special Issue of RUAF Magazine UAM No. 33 “Urban Agroecology” (Produced by CAWR & RUAF)

After the presentations and the mingling with the authors and publishers, we will serve dinner. All food (canapés and dinner) are from local farmers.

Here the menu Canapé menu and details of allergens ALLERGEN CHECK LIST

Music performance

During the social evening there will be a short music and engagement performance from Robin Gray (author of  “Three acres and a cow”).

Coventry Food Charter launch

Thursday 16th November, 5-7pm. Delegates planning to stay in Coventry longer than the conference, will have a chance to attend the launch of Coventry Food Charter, in the historical and beautiful the St. Mary’s Guild Hall (former castle and where the government was based for the short time Coventry has been the capital of the country!). In order to cater for the event, delegates will have to register on Eventbrite. Link here: book your free ticket