November 19, 2011

Farmers Markets As Exclusionary Spaces

 This semester, as part of my work with ECVOntario, I have been analyzing the data I gathered in summer on the availability of ECV at farmers markets. In addition to this work, I have also been reviewing related literature. As the research evolves, I have come to focus on the question: what determines what is sold at farmers’ markets. Although some external factors such as climate or rules imposed by farmers’ markets play partial roles in shaping what is sold at markets, in general, it can be assumed that the types of vegetables sold at farmers markets are determined by farmers’ choices. Although extensive literature exists to explain farmers’ choices, as of yet, little or no literature exists to explain farmers’ choices for what products to sell at farmers’ markets. Considering that farmers selling at farmers’ markets are in direct contact with consumers, one important factor influencing farmers decisions is likely consumer demand.
As indicated by my previous blog Farmers Markets: Are they for the Upper-Crust?, through my research, I found a very limited availability of ECV at farmers’ markets. One factor of interest that has come up through my research, which may, in part, explain the relative lack of ECV being sold at farmers markets, is the demand for particular crops. An emergent literature has started to explore the prevalent whiteness of alternative food movements such as farmers markets (Alkon & McCullen, 2011; Guthman 2008a, Guthman 2008b; and Slocum 2007). 
Through their studies of different alternative food movements and farmers’ markets, these authors have uncovered a number of ways in which the discourses of these movements may be working to exclude people from certain cultural groups. Alkon and McCullen (2011), for example, conducted an ethnographic study at two farmers’ markets in northern California. Their study sought to understand how whiteness is both performed and perpetuated at farmers’ markets. From their study, Alkon and McCullen (2011) identified a number of ways they saw whiteness working in the farmers markets’ they studied. To start, Alkon and McCullen (2011) identified the “romantic imagery surrounding small farmers as well as the imperative to buy directly from them” (p. 950). The article challenged this imagery and asserted that it ignored the historical role of race in American agriculture and “leads us to believe that the whites we see selling at the farmers market, rather than their mostly Latino/a employees, are those who presently grow our food” (p. 950). An additional way in which Alkon and McCullen (2011) perceive alternative food movements to be perpetuating whiteness is through discourses, which “paint alternative food choice as a moral rather than economic decision and normalizes affluence.” (p. 950).
Guthman (2008b), in a study of farmers’ market and community shared agriculture (CSA) managers,  identified similar ways in which discourses of alternative agricultural movements may be responsible for the prevalent whiteness of such movements. Guthman (2008b) found that the language used by several managers interviewed provided important examples of two manifestations of whiteness. The first is that for many managers interviewed, “color blindness or the absence of racial identifiers in language are seen as nonracist” (Guthman, 2008b, p. 390). As Guthman (2008b) asserts, this colour blindness “does its own violence by erasing the violence that the social construct of race has wrought in the form of racism” (p. 391). The second manifestation of whiteness identified by the study is universalism. For Guthman (2008), this universalism is represented by the assumption that values held predominantly by white people are the standard and it demonizes or downplays values held by others (Guthman, 2008b). This can be seen in discourses, which support farmers markets and alternative food movements unwaveringly and disregard anyone who may not find the same value from the movement. The aforementioned authors are careful to emphasize that they are not asserting that particular foods or alternative food practices are inherently white. That being said, these studies do indicate that there are a number of practices, which exclude non-white individuals from participating or wanting to participate in farmers’ markets and other alternative food movements. As I certainly cannot hope to do these authors justice in a short blog I recommend that anyone interested in this topic take a look at these important papers.
Frances Dietrich-O’Connor, MSc Candidate
SEDRD, University of Guelph
Alkon, A.H. & McCullen, C. G. (2011). Whiteness and Farmers Markets: Performances, Perpetuations . . . Contestations? Antipode, 43(4) 937–959. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00818.x
Guthman, J. (2008a). Bringing good food to others: investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies 15 p. 431-447. doi: 10.1177/1474474008094315
Guthman J. (2008b) “If They Only Knew”: Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions. The Professional Geographer, 60(3) 387-297 DOI: 10.1080/00330120802013679
Slocum, R. (2007). Whiteness, space and alternative food practice Geoforum, 38, 520–533. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.10.006
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November 5, 2011

atguelph article on ECV

A key component of knowledge translation and transfer is the creation of awareness. Atguelph just created public awareness about the fact that the demand for ECV exceeds supply: .

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