I have always been interested in two things in my life, sustainability and good food. Once I had heard there was a summer course in Germany about the future of food sustainability I thought there was no better way of combing my two favourite things. The 2 week course explored all aspects of food sustainability by discussing its forms of production, meal cultures and creating a sustainable food system. Organised by the German Society for Human Ecology and the College of the Atlantic, 7 students made up the first ever Summer University, from various countries around the World.
Situated in a small town called Emmendingen, near the green city of Freiburg, Germany, allowed us to be close to sustainable businesses that are advocating for a better food system in the region. The course started by visiting the various businesses in area such as the ‘demeter’ organic farm, an organic food wholesaler, a winery, and sustainable investment company.
In conjunction to the visits we were privileged to have multiple guest speakers who are leaders in their field of sustainability talk about education, biodiversity and meat overconsumption within sustainable food systems. We would have daily discussions about key questions that we face in food sustainability. With very passionate professors with different perspectives at times, discussions turned into academic arguments although thankfully they eventually ended in peaceful relations.
As part of the course, we were to choose a business partner and create an investigation that we would then present our findings at the end of the course. Thomas, another student, and I chose to investigate Regionalwert AG (RWAG), an investment company that only supports sustainable food businesses, mainly organic farms start-ups but also other various businesses relating to processing, services and distribution.
RWAG attempts to use the principles of conviviality in its business practices. What is conviviality I hear you say? It is a theory that attempts to create a care-based society where there is equal freedom for all. Its ecological and social considerations should be of equal importance to economic considerations. Though RWAG buys percentages of companies, small business owners still have great independence in running their business and by creating better connections between the producer and consumer, it creates a community that cares about where their food comes from and its environmental impact. Though they have not made financial profit, RWAG have made environmental and social profits and the shareholders are still happy.
All not was just academic though, students, professors and assistants came together and cooked multiple meals together to share our different cuisines. Everyone had great fun cooking together and eating together! Food is not just there for nutrition but food is what brings people together regardless of their background. I have definitely made great new friends that I will keep in touch with. I can also now think critically about my own food choices and how to improve regional food systems.