A whole morning session was given over to the SALSA project at the 13th IFSA conference held in Chania, Greece, in July. The session attracted many conference participants, who stayed the whole morning, for both the presentations and the debate and expressed great interest in the work carried out by SALSA. While there many questions and comments following the individual presentations, the most stimulating part of the morning was the lively discussion that occurred during the subsequent panel session.

Pavlos Karanikolas introduced the SALSA project and this was followed by the presentation of four papers – one on the overall structure of the project, and three on findings from first comparative analyses (see the programme, below). These papers spurred a lively debate, particularly in relation to strands within the recent literature, concerning the typologies of food systems and consumption patterns.

During the presentations and questions raised, Karlheinz Knickel used large post-its to note the key points, clustering them on the wall. Karlheinz then used this display to set the agenda for the panel / debate session, providing an overview of the main issues and questions raised. The panelists commented on the main points, with members of the audience sharing their views and raising questions.

Some of the key issues that emerged from the session are listed below.

  • The regional food system approach used in SALSA, with the aim of better understanding the food system at the district level, including the role and significance of small farms and related food businesses, is a relatively new conceptual approach.
  • The production function and the potential of small farms is of central interest in SALSA as this was a key criteria of the research funder. In addition to this the analysis also explores the interrelationships with the other dimensions of the Food and Nutrition Security.
  • The regional approach not only considers rural areas but also covers rural towns and urban-rural food chains and linkages.
  • While other perspectives could have been taken, which could produce different insights, SALSA is definitely creating new and relevant knowledge.
  • During the final months of the project more attention will be paid to reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches used in SALSA, the way its research boundaries were defined, and interpreted along the way.

Other discussion points concerned the relative significance of self-provisioning and income generation; the determinants of the development potential of food systems; power imbalances within food systems, and; food maps and the usefulness of a territorial perspective. Some knowledge gaps were also identified, including the need to learn about small farms’ adaptation strategies, identify the different value chains that small farms engage with, and the need for a better understanding of the consumption side of food systems.


PROGRAMME (A session organized by the SALSA project team)

Our food systems are broken, can small farmers help to fix them?

The paper session:

  • Assessing small farms’ role in the food systems at regional level: insights from a territorial approach.

Teresa Pinto Correia, Alejandro Guarín, Karlheinz Knickel, Sergio Godinho, María Rivera Méndez, Stephano Grando and Gianluca Brunori

  •  Food system integration of olive oil producing small farms: a comparative study of four Mediterranean regions

Pavlos Karanikolas, Teresa Pinto Correia, Victor Martinez-Gomez, Francesca Galli, Paola Andrea Hernandez, Laura Fastelli, Laura Arnalte-Mur, Maria Rivera Mendez, Paolo Prosperi and Giannis Goussios

  • Exploring the diverse connections between small farms and food consumption: case studies from Poland, Romania and Latvia

Marta Czekaj, Ewa Tyran, Sandra Šūmane, Barbu Raluca Ioana

  • Territorial fitting of small farms

Talis Tisenkopfs, Sandra Šūmane, Anda Ādamsone-Fiskoviča, Miķelis Grīviņš

Chair: María Rivera Méndez, Universidade de Évora/ICAAM, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Évora.


The Panel session

Small farms and small food businesses are confronted with a host of challenges, and, we think, they provide manifold opportunities for learning and more sustainable food systems. This interactive round table discussion builds on the previous session, also organised by the SALSA team, with several empirical research-based presentations focused on the complex relationships between small farms, markets and food and nutrition security.

In the discussion with a ‘panel’ of well-known thinkers, and with all participants in this session, we want to:

  1. deepen what we learned from the presentations on the role of small farms in the transition towards more sustainable food and nutrition security;
  2. discuss the relative importance of small farms for a more sustainable food system, and food and nutrition security, and unpack the related challenges and opportunities;
  3. identify related knowledge gaps and draw out implications for further research;
  4. discuss the question of enabling conditions.


  • Maria Partalidou, Rural Sociology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Chris Blackmore, Environmental and Development Systems, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Elisa Marraccini, INTERACT research team, Institut Polytechnique UniLaSalle, Beauvais, France
  • Stephane Bellon, Ecodéveloppement, French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Avignon, France
  • George Vlahos, Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Systems and Rural Sociology, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece
  • Teresa Pinto-Correia, ICAAM – Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Universidade de Évora, Portugal

Facilitation: Karlheinz Knickel, ICAAM – Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Universidade de Évora, Portugal