An Inverted Market: Niche Market Dynamics Of The Local Organic Food Movement
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe market for local organic foods in the United States has grown tremendously in recent years. Compared to a meager existence just a decade ago, local organic options now flourish through the form of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), thousands of farmers markets, community cooperative grocery stores, and upscale restaurants. Interestingly, the greatest percentage of growth in farmers markets in the US has occurred in the last 2-3 years during the Great Recession despite economic downturn. This changing nature of agriculture and new developments of alternative niche markets have captured the attention of scholars. Most studies tend to focus on economic, organizational, or even nutritional elements reflected in the food industry. Less emphasis, however, has been devoted to the roles of cultural consumption, values, and desires that have propagated the swift and substantial growth of this movement. Direct sales in local organic niche markets and the CSA model provide an atmosphere for repetitive interpersonal interaction between farmer and buyer around a product infused with shared meaning. I utilize ethnographic data from an extended case of a local organic farm in Southern Arizona and interviews with over 50 of their CSA members. This dissertation addresses how and why both producers and consumers co-produce alternative visions and meanings that sustain a viable local niche food economy. I argue that the members involved in this niche market sector hold unified reactions against the global expansionary aims of food corporations. Inverse to market forces, the cultural and economic ethos driving this movement originates from appreciation for craft production as an expression of commodity de-fetishization, personal investment and embeddedness in local economies, and desires for authenticity in community and consumption.
Degree ProgramGraduate College