This year, the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference is in Cardiff. People travel from around the world to share their geographical research. This is the first time the conference has been held in Wales for 25 years and it means that there are thousands of geographers in town!
Global Gardens were invited to be part of a Food Geography pre-conference workshop Planning Change in the City: food futures. This workshop aimed to bring different researchers and practitioners together to discuss and work on the challenges, tensions and opportunities in contemporary urban food systems.
In the morning, a panel of 6 academics and practitioners shared thoughts on one key challenge they are facing or question that they are engaging with in their research or practice.
Ana Moragues-Faus from the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University kicked off the session encouraged how researchers and practitioners to think about their own work-practice and how we can enact diversity and inclusivity in work.
Lia Moutselou, Lia's Kitchen spoke about how food is both personal and political. She gave an inspiring talk on food's powerful quality as a tool for reconnecting with a place. Whilst acknowledging the potential for food to be divisive - for example, triggering debates around where houmous or indeed tzatziki originates from (the latter is Greece of course!) she also spoke about the potential for food as a bridge that brings people together.
Megan Blake from the Department of Geography, Sheffield University focussed attention to the challenges of wasted food and how we need to move from 'beyond the cliff edge' both in the focus of research and conceptualisations around food.
Katie Palmer from Food Cardiff almost mentioned the B-word but instead of deliberating over the uncertainties of Brexit, focussed on how local authorities have the potential to support sustainable food systems through the provision of land.
Mel from Penylan Pantry and the Secret Garden Cafe spoke about the challenges of being sustainable as a business and questioned why pro-environmental practices such as recycling currently cost businesses more than non-environmental actions.
Moya Kneafsey from the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University spoke about the challenges and tensions of working within an institution which makes a commitment to agro-ecological practice whilst also recently agreeing a food catering contract with one of the largest catering companies in the world. She asked, how researchers, practitioners and organisations can come together to collaborate and create a community.
After lunch, the working group walked up to the garden site through Bute Park and along the river Taff. We were excited to welcome over 25 people from around the world including Japan, Sweden and China as well as the UK, all doing interesting work on food.
Beginning with a tour of the garden, we broke into smaller groups and did a range of tasks including harvesting tomatoes, aubergines, basil and chillies in the polytunnel; potatoes and kale from the veg patch and mushrooms from the mushroom patch, Another group also dug over a bed in preparation for planting and cut back brambles.
After the garden session, we reflected on what a garden of sanctuary means. We then moved on to the Embassy Cafe, Cathays Community Centre where we shared some delicious wood-fired sourdough pizza courtesy of Riverside Sourdough garnisHed with toppings from the garden washed down with herbal concoctions.
Upon reflection, it seems like food researchers and practitioners have much to share. The embodied work of cultivating, harvesting, preparation and cooking creates opportunities for connections not only by working as a group. Through physical actions and sensorial evocations this embodied work also helps us to tap into memories, forgotten histories and new ideas that can be shared, mobilised and reclaimed.