Food and the city

‘The problems are huge, yet the solutions are small’

On Friday 6 December, over 150 students, young food professionals and a few ‘older’ professionals – from Aeres students to farmers to food entrepreneurs came to Vis à Vis in Almere to join Flevo Campus Live. The visitors participated in workshops about different ways to change the food system, led by experts as diverse as Coca-Cola’s brand manager Anouk van Huissteden (intrapeneur) and animal ethicist Willem Vermaat (activist). Read our wrap-up and let the pictures speak for themselves!
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Homecoming in Almere

Moderator of the day was Desiree Hoving – not only is she a renowned science journalist, she is also a farmer’s daughter from Zeewolde, Flevoland. Moderating Flevo Campus Live must have felt like a homecoming for her, although the stage was a bit unusual. From four meters high, she addressed the audience to find out how many students (most of them) there are among the visitors, how many entrepreneurs (quite a lot) and how many farmers (just a few).

The day was kicked off by a few words from Roelie Bosch, alderman in Almere, who explained why Flevo Campus is so important for the city of Almere. ‘Almere is growing, we’ll be doubling in size, and the question how to supply food is becoming more and more important. Almere is the switch between a metropolitan area and an agricultural area; there is no better place to study urban food solutions than in Almere.’ In Bosch’s words, events like Flevo Campus Live bring together the thinking power of so many different people. ‘You are important, every single person in this venue.’

Jan-Nico Appelman, deputy of Flevoland, and moderator Desiree Hoving.

Farm to fork? No, fork to farm

When deputy of Flevoland Jan-Nico Appelman was welcomed upon the high stage, Desiree asked him ‘if it feels like heaven up here’. ‘No, but it feels like Flevoland!’ said Appelman. He stresses how important it is not only to encourage movements ‘from farm to fork’, but also ‘from fork to farm’. What can city dwellers bring to the farm? How could better relationships be established between farmers and consumers?

In a college tour-styled interview, WUR’s managing director of the Plant Sciences Groupp Ernst van den Ende was telling the audience about his own background. The experience that most shaped his visions on the food system, was a stay in Indonesia during his student years. ‘What I’ve learned there is that focusing on a small aspect in the system does not change anything. You have to look at the entire system. Go abroad! Look at the bigger picture. Don’t focus on your own discipline.’

Van den Ende never was a typical researcher, he said; he is full of entrepreneurial spirit and he has always sought for ways to set up his own projects. In the audience, tempers flared during Van den Ende’s talk. ‘Let’s not evade the political structures behind today’s problems,’ said a young entrepreneur in the crowd. Van den Ende agreed, but: ‘don’t avoid questions either about any of the choices you make yourself! Every choice has a trade-off. It’s the responsibility of scientists to focus on the trade-offs. But unfortunately, science is not so influential anymore. Scientists are no match for emotional arguments.’

Workshop time

Then it was time to get to work! The audience was split up in five workshops, led by five experts who are all advocates for a different way of changing the system. There was Willem Vermaat, well-known animal ethicist and campaigner for Animal Rights NL, who hosted a session on activism. Most important take-away: no, activism is not about trying to connect. As an activist, you’re calling for resistance, not for connections. Interestingly, some ‘angry farmers’ participated in Willem’s workshop, which led to lively discussions about the question whether some animal activists actually went too far.

Vera Bachrach (serial entrepeneur and founder of initiatives like Frietje Precies and Doehetzelfkip) talked about starting your own business as a way to change the system. She mainly discussed her experiences with upscaling: how can you make a small idea work out on a large scale?

The problems are huge, yet the solutions are so small

In Nadia Zerouali’s workshop on influencing, the same topic was addressed: small solutions for big problems. ‘We need rituals to combat diabetes, overeating and food waste,’ said Nadia. ‘The problems may seem huge, yet the solutions are so small: to share food. Always take into account who is at your table. How do we make big, complex facts small and real? Through food!’


Do we need a revolution rather than a transition?

Arco Timmermans is professor of Public Affairs at Leiden University. He is an expert at establishing win win situations and he sees lobbying – his preferred way of changing the food system – as a game, ‘a serious game’. ‘By creating pressure, you can set the societal agenda,’ he explained in his workshop. The recent farmers protests are just one example of ‘creating pressure’. An important lesson that Arco shares is that public issues are never real; they are constructed by those who care. Questions from the workshop: do we need a food revolution rather than a transition? Are we going fast enough?

Anouk van Huissteden, brand manager new beverages at Coca-Cola, leads the workshop about intrapeneurship. She talked about sustainability projects that she and her colleagues have set up from within. For instance an internal awareness campaign for reducing plastic waste (‘plastic is not the problem; plastic waste is’) and the Coca-Cola OPEN sessions, in which all stakeholders are invited to join the sustainability conversation. Once more, Anouk emphasized: start small! Beginning with small ideas in her team, she has created truly impactful campaigns.

What’s the news in 2022?

In all workshops the participants were looking into the future to see what would be in the headlines in 2022 – the year in which the Floriade will be organized in the city of Almere. See some headlines for yourself:

Workshop: activist (Willem Vermaat)

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Apparently in 2022, the agenda is set for food literacy, and bonds between farmers and consumers will be strengthened – at least according to these Flevo Campus Live participants.

Change has many flavours

Anke Brons, PhD candidate at Aeres, wrapped up the day with a beautiful Christmas story, in which all five workshop experts would serve a different course. Animal rights activist Willem would serve a vegan cheese platter, whereas lobbyist Arco would serve blue tomato soup – ‘to attract attention’. Entrepeneur Vera would of course bring in a DIY chicken, and Coca-Cola’s Anouk would take care of a plastic bottle of Honest ice tea. Anke’s final words:

‘Change has many flavours. Try a new one this Christmas!’

And just when everyone thought Flevo Campus Live was over, there was a final surprise: the essay book Boze boeren, LED-lampen en kipdino’s (order here – in Dutch) was presented. Earlier this year a competition was launched for essayists who wanted to contribute to this book. Herman van Lelieveldt and Laura van Oers, two of the winners of this competition, received the first copy of the book.

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