New modes of organisation for sustainable food systems of tomorrow

posted Jul 4, 2011, 7:53 AM by Andrea Bohn   [ updated Jul 4, 2011, 7:56 AM ]

First announcement and call for workshop proposals for The 10th European IFSA Symposium, July 1-4, 2012, in Aarhus, Denmark.

Producing and reproducing farming systems: New modes of organisation for sustainable food systems of tomorrow

The International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) – European Group is a lively network consisting of dedicated researchers and scholars from various fields of research and practices. IFSA is concerned with sustainable development of agriculture from a systemic perspective. Being no formal membership association, all who participate in the biennial symposia are considered part of the IFSA family. The IFSA European Group Steering Committee and the local Organisation Committee are now looking forward to the 10th symposium to be held in Aarhus, Denmark.  We welcome you to a fruitful and inspiring meeting dealing with contemporary and emerging questions and challenges to the development of sustainable farming systems.   

Organization and program

The symposium will encompass plenary sessions, workshops, excursions and world cafés, as well as animation/visualisation events, conference dinner and receptions. As traditionally the case during IFSA Europe symposia, most time will be dedicated to workshops. A more detailed program will be announced in August 2011 on the conference website

Symposium themes

A number of challenges are currently facing European family farms. While being the traditional organisational form of farming in Europe, developments during the last 50 years put this organisational form of farming under pressure. Modernisation in terms of mechanisation, specialisation, globalisation and, as a consequence of these developments, structural development, has forced many family farms into intermediary forms between farms and businesses within a strict economic logic. The question is whether these forms of organising farming can successfully deal with the challenges ahead and the changing conditions in the surrounding world.
One such challenge is succession. In many areas young people do not want to live in the countryside. The difference in working condition and salary between farm labour and other businesses has grown dramatically. In addition, the visions for future sustainable farming systems, which can also attract new generations of young people to become involved in the development of agriculture, are poorly expressed. Furthermore, the rising cost of farm land has in many places made it almost impossible for young people to buy a farm enterprise, because the necessary investments are overwhelming. A second challenge is the ability of large-scale, specialised farms to cope with the demand for environmentally sustainable practices. Specialisation combined with the growth in size has led to a range of negative consequences on the environment, biodiversity, landscape, etc. This is a problem for society but also a problem for the farming systems themselves. The systems fall short in capabilities to observe their own ecology, to respond adequately to the critique from environmental agencies and NGOs, and to organise themselves accordingly.  A third challenge is the increasing complexity of interaction between farming systems and the rest of society. There are more and more specific interests, perspectives and organisations relating to farming and food systems, as well as an increase in competing use of agricultural land, through urban sprawl, energy production, nature sanctuary, recreation, etc. New forms of organisation are needed to address these challenges in Europe and globally, but also to capitalise on the new possibilities these dynamics may bring in terms of closing the gap between producers and consumers, exploring multifunctional farming activities and the benefits of green care.
There is a need to explore and focus on what the sustainable farming systems of tomorrow will look like; how they may be produced and reproduced in terms of their ability to reshape themselves and their elements; and how new organisational forms may meet the three challenges outlined above in combination with the general challenges of society to deal with globalisation, climate change, biodiversity loss, and conflicts over land and water. IFSA is the right place and the right context to ask these questions. We welcome many different perspectives on farming systems: they are all needed to deepen our understanding of what the challenges and potentials of these emerging contexts are.  The changing farming systems also stress the need for the different research approaches and perspectives within IFSA to reflect on how they can address these challenges accordingly, and to ask whether new research perspectives are needed.

Call for workshop proposals

We are encouraging interested potential conveners to make a workshop proposal for the symposium addressing some aspect of the theme of the symposium from one of the IFSA research perspectives or by integrating several perspectives, or to propose and demonstrate the need for a new research perspective. More info can be found on the IFSA symposium homepage at

Deadline for submission of workshop proposals is 1st September 2011. To obtain a good balance between the numbers of workshops and participants we will in some cases ask conveners to collaborate in joining workshop offerings.  The Members of the Steering Committee will offer their help to co-convene workshops. If you have any questions do not hesitate to address these to the local Organising Committee at the email address

Further info on IFSA 2012

The Symposium is organised by a Danish-Swedish committee. The Danish members of the committee are: Egon Noe, Hugo Alrøe, Chris Kjeldsen, Jytte Christensen and Birgit Sørensen from Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, Denmark. The Swedish members of the committee are Nadarajah Sriskandarajah and Rebecka Milestad from the Department of Urban and Rural Development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.Please go to our conference website at for further info.

Important dates & links

We strongly urge you to submit a proposal for workshops. The important dates in relation to IFSA 2012 is:

Deadline for proposals for workshops: September 1, 2011 (download template)
Deadline for submission of paper abstracts: December 1, 2011
Early bird registration deadline: April 15, 2012

For all other inquiries, please consult for contact info
Download Announcement and Call for Workshops in PDF-format

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2011 © IFSA2012 Organising Committee.

For further info, please contact:

Egon Noe
Chris Kjeldsen

Department of Agroecology
Aarhus University
P.O. Box 50
DK-8830 Tjele