AFRN Conference Report

Convenor’s Conference and Business Meeting Report 2012

This year’s Agrifood conference was a resounding success with over 70 delegates from as far afield as the US, UK, Australia and Germany attending the 2012 Agrifood Conference in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The conference offered a lively program of keynote presentations, workshops, parallel sessions and social events.

Following the conference theme of ‘histories/futures’, delegates were offered the opportunity to engage with the temporal as well as spatial aspects of agrifood systems, acknowledging the histories that have shaped contemporary food production and consumption and considering futures that might facilitate a departure from the perils of the ‘business as usual’ model. To this end, we heard from New Zealand-based keynote speakers Professor Eric Pawson on the making of markets in 19th Century New Zealand, and Dr Tanira Kingi on the histories of Maori land and agricultural development, including the Taranaki Land Wars where the Maori fought government troops over land sovereignty. International keynote speaker, Professor Terry Marsden of Cardiff University, presented a thought-provoking paper on the new technological frontiers of nature, examining, not least, the bio-economic and eco-economic approaches to future food systems.

Conference delegates were highly engaged at the conference, presenting cutting-edge research encompassing a variety of locations from the historic, contemporary and future across a range of geographical spaces.
The theoretical and analytical depth of inquiry was inspiring, with concepts such as resilience, genetics, energy, urban agriculture, regulation, biosecurity, bioeconomies, the food crisis, financialisation and new social movements with over thecourse of the conference. It was not all work and no play, though, with the now-institutional Agri-trivia night and Agri-Bagri awards being a raucous success. The fieldtrip following the Manawatu River was an exceptional choice by the organisers – in tracing the river to the sea, we were able to engage with local Maori, environmentalists, and farmers to learn first hand about the social and environmental impacts of water pollution.

This conference also saw the very first award of the David  Burch Prize for Best Student paper. The prize was presented to Ms Kate Archdeacon, MPhil student at the University of Melbourne, by Professor Terry Marsden. Kate’s paper explored urban agriculture in Melbourne, examining assets, barriers and strategies. Congratulations Kate!

On behalf of the network members, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Drs Carolyn Morris and Corrina Tucker and Professor Mike Roche for organising and hosting the conference and to the keynote speakers Professors Terry Marsden and Eric Pawson and Dr Tanira Kingi for their enthusiastic engagement with the network.

Other news – housekeeping

At the Agrifood business meeting held during the conference, it was agreed to that the David Burch Prize should be established at $500 and that future conference hosts should add $10AUD to the conference registration fee to cover the cost of the prize each year. This will be added to the full time/staff registration fee and not to the student’s registration fee, with the conference hosts then providing the cheque for the prize.

In a break from history, the Network also has a small budget this year, however, as there is no formal organisational structure such as management committee and treasurer etc, it was agreed that the convenor would have the discretion to allocate these funds as part of running costs for the network. So far, monies have been spent on setting up the Agrifood Research Network website www.afrn.org.au , and the David Burch prize. The budget was reported in full at the meeting.

It was also time to re-elect the Network convenor following a two year term by Dr Carol Richards. Carol again nominated, and was re-elected unchallenged.

Planning for next year’s conference is already underway, with Melbourne nominated as the site for the 2013 Agrifood conference. It will be organised by a team consisting of Dr Ruth Beilin, Professor Christine Parker and Dr Jagjit Plahe. The dates and host university is yet to be determined, however, updates will be sent via the email list and website.

Agrifood Photo Archive

Finally, I have started up a Flickr account entitled Agrifood Research Network and uploaded some photos from the Palmerston North conference, and also the Mulloon Creek fieldtrip from last year’s conference in Canberra. The website for the Agrifood photo archive is http://www.flickr.com/groups/agrifood/  Here you can apply to ‘join’ and then access the current photos and upload any additional photos you have from Network meetings, fieldtrips, etc. If you have any problems accessing the site, email me on c.richards@uq.edu.au and I will issue an invite. In the coming weeks the photos taken by the professional photographer at Massey will be uploaded, so please check them out.

Best wishes for 2013

Dr Carol Richards, Network Convenor

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