Efficiency. One of the focus points within economics. But when applied to real life you may realize that it can be quite a balancing act. At least, this is what I experienced on my last study / research communication / project meeting trip. Within 10 days I had to accommodate three different things. Whereat this did not only mean attending these three different events, but also actively participate in them and prepare for them.
The destination Chania, Greece. Not too shabby! I knew that the schedule would be packet. Thus, I was glad to stay in a bit more isolated spot, where I could recharge my batteries in the mornings and evenings in quiet and solitude. This also gave me the chance to experience Crete in a non-touristic area and get a little insight in the life of Cretan people.
The 10 days started off with the PhD symposium with the title: “Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) in PhD Research Appreciating uncertainties and opportunities and knowing how to act with Farming Systems Research.” It was one of the best experiences I had as a PhD researcher so far. Not only could I connect with likeminded researchers using systems thinking, I could also learn much about this tool. The professors who shared their wisdom during this course did a marvelous job, regarding organization and knowledge sharing. What I appreciated most about this symposium is that attendees were encouraged to reflect about themselves, but also about their role within research or the tools and methods they apply. Therefore, I did not regret that I put this additional event on my Chania agenda. Even if, the tasks that PhD symposium attendees had overlapped with the IFSA conference and the SUFISA meeting. There were a couple of assignments to fulfill for the PhD symposium. Some were to be finalized before the symposium and some needed to be accomplished by the last day of the event, which was also the last day of the IFSA conference and the first day of the SUFISA meeting. One of these assignments needed PhD symposium participants to be observers during the IFSA conference. Hence, we, the PhD symposium participants, were not only attending the IFSA conference, but were also participating as researchers. The results of our observations were presented during the closing session of the IFSA conference. Even if this was quite demanding, it created a sense of community among the PhD symposium participants that will hopefully outlast the event.
Item number two on my Chania agenda was the IFSA conference itself. At the conference, I had the pleasure to present research conducted within the SUFISA project. One of the presentations was held in one of the SUFISA sessions, while the other one was presented in a session on markets and power. The IFSA conference offered a good platform to get feedback on my research and connect with researchers working in the agri-food sector. The abstracts and papers can be accessed here. Due to the assignment we got for the PhD symposium I was in an interesting position, that allowed me to reflect much more on my own presentations. Moreover, I got additional feedback from my colleagues of the symposium.
Finally, the SUFISA meeting. As I indicated above, my research is conducted within the SUFISA project, which encompasses 13 institutions all over Europe. Thus, these meetings help us to organize, exchange, manage, discuss and report face to face. Coupling the meeting with the conference was particularly fruitful as we could dedicate three session to the dissemination of research results. Moreover, other EU projects presented their work at the conference too. This allowed us to get more insights from these specific projects as well as from other research.
These 10 days were not only filled with sitting in a closed room, but also with two field trips. Field trips, which allowed me to learn more about the agri-food system on Crete. For the PhD symposium we visited a farmer who talked with us about his business. A visit that also served us to test some new research, reflection and analysis tools that we learned about during the symposium. My second excursion within the frame of the conference lead me to a Carob producer and an avocado farmer. From both I learned interesting things, such as the importance of proactive behavior in the agri-food business.
All in all, it was much more than three in one. I cannot count how much I learned within these 10 days. One thing I learned for sure: the importance of rest in a storm.
Katharina Biely performs research for the Horizon 2020 project SUFISA (Grant Agreement No. 635577).