Sarah Rach

JUST Food – Spatial conditions for a sustainable food system

Image 1defImage by Sarah Rach

Problem description
Food is the first necessity of life for every human being on earth. The first set­tlements on earth emerged because of this first necessity. Eventually these settlements grew into cities. While ancient cities relied mainly on their local hinterland, international trade was an im­portant part of the economics of these first cities, like ancient Rome for example.

During the decades food has become more and more a global issue and the local hinterland has changed into a global hinterland (Steel, 2008). With a growing world population, urbanization trends and scarce resources food has become an urgent complex and global topic.

Knowing the world population will grow from the current 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, food is an emerging topic in various disciplines.

The fact that in cities consumer demands are met, is mostly thanks to our globalized chains of food production, processing and distribution. This global food system has brought many bene­fits to the urban population so far, like low food prices and a year round supply of many food products (Wiskerke & Viljoen, 2012, p. 21). These benefits however, have also come at a cost. Issues regarded to food can be categorized in terms of social, economic and ecological problems.

Image 2Image by Sarah Rach

Except for feeding 3 billion more people than we have now on our planet, food can also play a role in sustainable urban development. In this more and more globalizing world, agreements and pol­icies for food production and trade are made. A short review on the history of (Dutch) agriculture and the welfare state shows a gradual development in the state we are in today. The current food sys­tem is multi-characteristic and multi scalar.

Simultaneously we are dealing with a decen­tralizing government and the end of the welfare state. In this light, the task is to develop a Utopia of an ideal society in which the chosen topic, food in this case, gets the emphasis.

Research questions

1. What are the spatial conditions to enable a sustainable food system, particularly a sustainable pig farm?

2. How can urban planning and design contribute to the discipline of food production?

Project Goal
The utopia of JUST food, does justice to our health, our environment and our society. The way we produce is healthy, not harmful for our envi­ronment and benefits our global society.

In this cosmopolitan food system we feed the world social, economic, environmental sustaina­ble and ethical. Preferably this means that there is a global benefit of industrialized food produc­tion, there is a consumer demand for fair food and the producer feels the wish and responsibil­ity to produce these fair foods. The production would create a positive spillover effect for the re­lated countries in the food chain: a cosmopolitan food system.

This project aims to explore how regional/metropolitan agriculture can contribute to a healthy, sustainable and so­cial just food system. And therefore determine the spatial qualities and char­acteristics which can contribute to a sustainable food system and the spatial conditions which enable such a ‘just food’ development.

PrintImage by Sarah Rach

Design Description
The Netherlands is a well known pig country. The amount of pork produced in the Netherlands is more than twice the domestic demand. This means that a big amount is being exported, mainly within the triangle London, Paris and Berlin. A big pig farm in the Netherlands is used as a case study to explore the spatial potentials of a sustainable food system. The design will be an exploration of integrating chain activities pig production within different spatial concepts like sprawl and concentration. The conditions of a sustainable pig farm will be translated into a flexible urban/rural development framework.

Image4Image by Sarah Rach

Theoretical research shows two schools of thought: the alternative and conventional. Both have different solutions for different problem-solution combination. Rather than seeing those discourses as opposites, design can play a role in integrating the two discourses. ‘’Culturally diverse cities that wish to develop ‘sustainable food strategies’ need to strike a balance between the localization of their food chains, where the aim should be to calibrate the local production and consumption of seasonal food, and globalization, where the aim should be to promote the use of fairly traded produce from developing countries. In other words, a sustainable food strategy ought to embrace a spatial strategy that tries to promote cosmopolitan localism, rather than localism per se’’ (Morgan & Sonnino, 2010, p. 4).

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