Seminar with potluck party: "But local knowledge—what a temptation, and what an absolute!"

About traditional knowledge, food and climate change adaptation. Masterclass for PhD students. All others are welcome! Please sign up at

Organised by Forest and Nature Conservation Policy

Wed 13 November 2019 13:30 to 18:00

Venue Lumen, building number 100
Room Lumen 1 and Lumen 2

Centuries before the introduction of modern scientific knowledge, indigenous peoples and farmers have already developed sophisticated knowledge about living sustainably with their surroundings while feeding large populations. Today, such traditional knowledge is still of crucial importance to achieve alternatives to the current natural resource based industries to foster long term food production, biodiversity and human and non-human wellbeing. Our current food and forest systems favour large scale operations and technologies that exclude small scale and low budget operations. The faith put in intensive production - dependent on external fertilizers and pesticides - has turned out to be unsustainable fantasies as they externalize the costs for production to the soil, the waters, fauna and human society. (Re)turning to traditional and farmers’ knowledge aids us in developing the much needed radical changes.

In this masterclass, we explore the significance of traditional understandings for agro-ecological food production and biodiversity practices. We delve into the meaning of indigenous and farmers’ understandings in terms of practices, cultures and languages.  We want to bring different understandings and knowledges into productive conversation with each other. Nicole Klenk (Associate Professor, University of Toronto) will speak on local and traditional knowledges. Albert van der Ploeg, chairman of the Noardlike Fryske Wâlden association, will bring Frisian traditional knowledge to the table, revealing the interconnections with agro-ecological practices and the Frisian language and culture.

A homemade dish guides us deeper into local and farmers’ knowledge on food. PhDs who wish to receive ECTS will be asked to prepare a traditional or local dish. They will also need to research into and reflect on the origins of the ingredients for their dish and recipe prior to the masterclass. The seminar will end with a potluck during which participants present their dishes and show how their dishes relate to traditional knowledge. For other participants in the seminar, preparing a dish is not mandatory.

The seminar will be open to everyone who is interested. PhD candidates can receive 0.3 ECTS.

PhDs participating in the potluck need to take care of the expenses for preparing their own dishes.  No further costs are expected.

Assignment to receive 0.3 ECTS:
PhDs will join the entire afternoon and can earn 0.3 ECTS if they prepare and bring a dish, and reflect on the origins of the ingredients and the recipe or production process during the potluck. They are also required to prepare a poster and send this to Marieke Meesters before 11 am on 13 November. Participants need to reflect on the use of or reliance on local or traditional knowledge for the production (of the ingredients) of the dish. As a guideline, each dish needs to serve as a full meal for 2 to 4 people. Non-PhDs can register separately for the talks, the potluck, or both but do not have to prepare a dish (but are of course welcome to do so, and join in the feast if food is abundant!).

The speakers:

Albert van der Ploeg has been the chairman of the Noardlike Fryske Wâlden association since 2017. The majority of the nearly 800 members of this association are farmers and private persons are involved in (agricultural) nature management. The association strives for an area-oriented vital agriculture, in the middle of 'e mienskip’ (the community), which is intertwined with the cultural-historical landscape with accompanying natural values. A former alderman (Dantumadeel) and a part-time farmer, van der Ploeg knows the Northeast Friesland region and the agricultural sector well. Together with six board members, he works to strengthen the position of the association for agricultural nature and landscape management as a forerunner in the Netherlands and he likes to connect residents and visitors with the cultural landscape and farmers. Van der Ploeg owns 20 hectares of land with 50 sheep and 20 cows, does private nature management and is also chairman of the Kollektievenberied Fryslân, the foundation Living Lab Nature Inclusive Agriculture and chairman of the Private Nature Management foundation. He will talk about the meaning of local/traditional knowledge in preserving biodiversity in the context of Fryslân (Dutch province).

Nicole Klenk’s academic background is in botany and forest ecology. She became interested in the role of science in addressing complex environmental problems during her PhD days. Her research seeks to examine the science-policy interface, the ethics and politics of knowledge co-production, mobilization and application, and new modes of environmental governance. Her research focuses on the interpretive social sciences and her theoretical orientation is interdisciplinary, drawing from science studies, post-structuralist political theory, and early American pragmatism.  She works mainly in the areas of forestry, biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation.