Round Table ‘Sowing Hope in the FoodValley’

On Wednesday May 22nd, the Round Table ‘Sowing Hope in the Dutch FoodValley’ was held at a farm in Barneveld.

06/07/2019 | 9:20 AM

How to move beyond the polarized debates regarding the transitions in the field of agriculture?

On Wednesday May 22nd, the Round Table ‘Sowing Hope in the Dutch FoodValley’ was held at a farm in Barneveld. Farmers, politicians, activists, bankers, economists, theologians and others involved in the agricultural sector in the Netherlands explored the recent state of the agriculture and the role of the concept of hope can play in that sector.

Download the Position Paper ‘Hoop zaaien in de FoodValley’ (pdf, in Dutch), which was developed in advance.

In the first round introductions were given by a farmer, a director of an environmental NGO and a representative of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. In all introductions it became visible that there is a structural pressure on the income of the farmers, on the environment (soil, climate and landscape) and on the relations between the parties involved, for example farmers do not feel appreciation by citizens.
Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, argues in her vision document (2018) that these issues require a transition to circular agriculture. According to her, such a transition demands a cooperation between all parties involved. However, a recent extreme case of animal activists occupying a pig farm in Boxtel made visible that there are often conflicting positions and big gaps between parties involved. Cooperation seems often to be far away.

In the second round the concept of hope was explored from a theoretical and practical perspective as a possible way to provide another way of dealing with one another in times of conflicting interests and big gaps. Central to the discussion was an operationalization of hope in the ‘courageous conversation’. At the heart of such a conversation is dialogue instead of debate. Parties, with often conflicting interests, come together in a safe space out of a concern for a shared future, learn to put themselves in the shoes of the other, build relations of trust, evaluate progress and take tangible and implementable decisions to act.

In the third round a CEO from a bank and an alderman stressed the need to deepen the transition to circular agricultural with something like a ‘courageous conversation’. At the same time the discussion made clear that there are tensions between the positions of several participants. Also the notion of creating a new social covenant came up in the conversation.

In the coming weeks a white paper will be developed containing a summary of the Round Table, highlighting remaining questions and dilemma’s, showing good practices and exploring next steps forward.

The Round Table was organized by the municipality of Ede, the Rabobank, the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and the Amsterdam Centre for Religion and Sustainable Development (Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).