Urban Food Stories is a collection of stories, as well as a challenge to rethink the city with a view to how food is produced and distributed.
The stories we’ve gathered remodel a type of ecology, a decentralized system connecting people, places, practices and resources. People are the link between the stories, through the multiple connections between the surroundings of Cluj and Bucharest. Out of these initiatives, the Ecoruralis Association is the one bringing together those who practice traditional agriculture, as well as facilitating the liaison between farmers and European or worldwide initiatives.
Such ecology has proven itself resilient throughout time; it has kept alive agricultural practices which hold together communities and harbour the social memory of places. Romania houses half of the peasant population in Europe – 5 million – more than a quarter of the country’s total population (18 million). Nevertheless, agricultural policies support large companies, while the competition created by import products grown with industrial methods, make it extremely difficult for small local producers to access the market of agricultural products. The real alternative is represented by programmes such as The Peasant’s Box, which by-passes the conventional sale through intermediaries system and establishes a direct connection between local producers and consumers, based on trust. Such initiatives allow the peasants and urban farmers to maintain their way of life, while consumers benefit from agricultural products freshly harvested on the delivery date.
The spaces where the stories unfold are either marginal or residual, as well as public spaces used temporarily. As such, the Hoștezeni community, urban farmers from Cluj, grow crops on lands at the borders of the city; the dwellers of the blocks of flats grow on small areas on either sides of the railway, in Pajura, Bucharest, or on the borders of a brook, in Mănăștur, Cluj; peasants nearby, as well as urban farmers in Cluj sell their products in the temporary markets set up from time to time in the public spaces of the city. Within the prevailing imaginary on the city, agricultural practices are marginal, and belong rather to the village; however, these urban stories describe those locations where agriculture permeates the city.