Kate Conway ALG Proposal

Sense of Place and Its Role in Building Food Sovereignty:
A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Mexico and Spain
Kate Conway
Adventure Learning Grant Proposal
January 4, 2022

Important Definitions
food sovereignty: " ... the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced
through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and
agriculture systems." 1
sense of place: " ... the experiential and expressive ways places are known, imagined, yearned for,
held, remembered, voiced, lived, contested and struggled over."2
I believe we have the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food, to access land, and
to define our food systems. This is the right to food sovereignty. In working with the land and
those who care for and cultivate it, I intend to explore the ways in which food sovereignty is
entwined with a sense of place and how both are influenced by histories of colonialism in
Mexico and Spain. I will record and share my experiences through illustrated journal entries.
When I return to my Fairhaven community, I will create opportunities for community connection
and hands-on learning grounded in the collective right to food sovereignty.
"Through food, we can find out that there is more that connects us than separates us." 3
Food is a universal part of the human experience. It is both a necessity and a means for
connecting with and caring for others. For me, food is a tangible symbol of care, and I take great
joy in sharing it with others and coming together over a thoughtfully prepared meal.
1 "Food Sovereignty," U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFA), accessed December 21, 2021,
http://usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/what-is- food-sovereignty/.
2 Steven Feld and Keith Basso, Senses of Place (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Press, 1996), 11.
3 High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, NetfUx, 2021, Season 1, Episode 1, 4 7 :00.
Food is also a way I connect with my environment. I have spent summers working long
hours on organic farms and now manage the food forest at the Outback Farm. Through the
growing of food and the tending of plants and animals, I have come to better know the place I
live: the landscape, the people, the weather, and the other non-human life I share a home with. In
other words, food has helped me to develop a sense of place. Sense of place is hard to define; it
differs from person to person, from place to place.
Knowing, caring for, and cultivating a place are essential to producing food in a
sustainable way. This is why I think sense of place and food sovereignty are deeply entwined.
Both are tied up in histories and systems of power and oppression as well, and I want to explore
the influences of these histories and systems on sense of place and food sovereignty in Mexico
and Spain.
The following questions will guide my learning before, during, and after my travels: How
does history influence a people's culture and sense of place? In what ways does colonialism
affect a country's collective sense of place? How can the way we interact with and move through
the landscape influence our sense of place? As food producers, can a sense of place guide us
towards producing food sustainably? Does food sovereignty require that food producers have a
sense of place?
I hope to explore these questions in Mexico and Spain for a number of reasons. First, the
histories of Mexico and Spain are entwined, much like I believe sense of place and food
sovereignty to be. One can find similarities as well as distinct differences between their cultures,
which offers the opportunity for comparisons that illuminate power and oppression and the
effects of settler colonialism. Second, both are predominantly Spanish-speaking countries, and
though I will need to build my conversational skills, I have a strong foundation in Spanish and
Conway 3
am pursuing a Spanish minor. This experience will aid in my language development by requiring
me to take risks outside of the comfort of a classroom. Being immersed in the Spanish language
will be challenging, but it will allow me to become a proficient listener and speaker. I will have
the chance to connect with those I meet in their native language. as opposed to making them
accommodate me.
Since I am interested in people's connection to land and farming practices, it is important
that the places I travel offer opportunities for learning about sustainable agricultural practices,
whether that be permaculture or other methods. Both Mexico and Spain have plenty of land
devoted to sustainable agriculture, and I am in contact with a permaculture school in Mexico.
I'm also interested in developing my own connection to the landscape in the ways I work with it
and travel across it. As an avid bike commuter, I appreciate the beauty of using your body to
move through a landscape slowly yet efficiently. During this adventure, I am hoping to travel
largely by bike, and many parts of Mexico and Spain are bike-friendly. Lastly, as a solo,
female-presenting traveler, safety is a big concern. I am confident that I can travel safely in both
Spain and Mexico.
If given the opportunity to pursue this experience, listening and learning will be my top
priority. I know I need to do so respectfully, humbly, and with the understanding that it is a great
privilege. I envision myself learning in a number of ways. I think a lot of my learning will be
done quietly and perhaps without my knowledge. I will be alone in new places, with new people,
speaking a new language, and I will have to learn how to navigate all of the circumstances and
surprises that come with that.
In a more conscious, directed way, I hope to learn a lot by living and working on farms
practicing sustainable agriculture across Mexico and Spain. This hands-on work will build on my
farming experience and allow me to connect directly with the land and the people that tend it. In
my time at each farm, I wish to talk with farmers and learn about their sense of place and what
drives them to practice sustainable agriculture.
I also want to learn by spending time in Mexico and Spain's city centers, immersing
myself in each place's culture by enjoying local food, visiting museums, exploring markets and
parks, and getting to know those I meet along the way. This will help me draw connections
between each country's history and culture and how that might shape their sense of place and
food systems.
My trusty bike will get me from place to place when possible, and that will allow me to
experience the cities and rural areas in a slower, more intimate way. I also expect traveling by
bike will be a near constant source of small and large troubles requiring me to practice
problem-solving and asking for help.
In pursuing this plan, I hope to improve my understanding of how to be a respectful,
humble, and gracious visitor. I'm sure I will learn how to deal with discomfort and different
ways of reaching out and forming connections with strangers. As I learn how to converse in
Spanish, connect with an unfamiliar landscape, practice different methods of sustainable
agriculture, and bikepack, I'll practice flexibility, creativity, and reasonable self-sufficiency. In
exploring how sense of place is necessary to food sovereignty, I expect to see food sovereignty
modeled in a number of ways by different communities. I hope to apply what I learn to
cultivating food sovereignty in my own community.
If given this opportunity, I look forward to sharing my experiences and learning with my
Fairhaven community in a variety of ways. While traveling, I will stay in touch by keeping an
online journal with written and visual accounts of what I'm seeing, learning, and doing. Upon
Conway 5
my return, I'd like to lead a workshop at the Outback Farm inviting students to learn the basics
of permaculture and how it can be applied to diverse environments like urban farms, backyard
gardens, or indoor growing. Additionally, I'd like to lead a bike tour of different food justice
projects and urban farms in Whatcom county (e.g. Bellingham Food Bank, Chuckanut Center,
Lakeway Community Garden, the RE Patch Garden) to help folks connect the landscape and
learn about ways to get involved in promoting food sovereignty in our community. Finally,
compiling a zine or two would offer another way to connect with my Fairhaven community that
doesn't require people to attend a specific event. I would include written and artistic work to
create a multimedia representation of what I learned and experienced.