At the end of May 2013, I flew to Victoria, B.C. to participate in the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS) at the University of Victoria. The CAFS conference was part of the larger Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which brought around 8000 academics, researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to Victoria from June 1st to 8th.

As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to participate in the full-day pre-conference for early researchers on June 1st. This was an excellent chance to meet other graduate students and post-docs in a casual environment and to discuss some topics of particular interest to early researchers. I took part in four sessions over the course of the day, facilitated by more advanced researchers. One especially helpful discussion, particularly for first and second year students starting their graduate journey, was hosted by Stephane McLachlan of the University of Manitoba. He started the day off by moderating an interesting discussion on fostering mutually supportive advisor/student relationships. We were able to share stories about what constitutes a great advisor, how to choose a supervisor and committee that complements our learning styles, and how to address challenges that may come up during the supervisory process. Other topics that we covered during the day were the challenges of the interdisciplinary nature of food studies, how to develop and teach courses in food studies, and the possibilities and challenges of community-based research. Overall, this pre-conference workshop was an excellent experience. It was exciting to meet other students from across the country going through the process of doctoral research and share our experiences with people who understand.

Victoria, BC. Image courtesy of Jennifer Jones.

Victoria, BC. Image courtesy of Jennifer Jones.

During the CAFS conference, which ran from the 2nd to the 4th of June, not only was I able to attend a number of interesting panels on food studies, but I also had the opportunity to present my own work. I spoke on a panel titled “Food Networks and Collaborative Dialogue”, along with researchers from Portland State University, the University of Victoria, and the University of British Columbia. I presented my work on public-private partnerships in the CGIAR to a packed room – I’d never presented on a panel before where the room was so full that people were sitting on the floor!

My paper argued that the strong role of the private sector in international development work in agricultural research is not unexpected. Rather, over the past three centuries public policy decisions made for reasons of political and economic security increasingly contributed to the emergence and growth of a powerful private sector presence in agricultural research. The two centres of the CGIAR that I am studying continue this trend; while public resources are shrinking in agricultural research, these two centres are not unwilling partners with the private sector.

Overall, the trip to Victoria was an excellent experience! I very much enjoyed the pre-conference day in particular, had some fascinating questions, comments, and discussions in response to my presentation, and made some new contacts who I continue to keep in touch with. Many thanks to the Balsillie School for providing travel funds for me to attend the CAFS conference.

Jennifer Jones is a Phd. Candidate in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.