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Linking agriculture and Rural Communities Through Local Food Systems John Smithers, Department of Ge


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Title: Linking agriculture and Rural Communities Through Local Food Systems John Smithers, Department of Ge

Linking agriculture and Rural Communities Through
Local Food Systems (?) John Smithers, Department
of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.
  • A research program supported by the Social
    Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
    Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture
    and Food Sustainable Rural Communities Program
  • Thanks to the Department of Geography (Waikato)
    and to Lex Chalmers for hosting / supporting a
    view from New Zealand.

Characterizing Conventional
  • Hyper Productivity
  • Resource Substitution
  • Economies of Scale
  • Standardizing process and product conditions of
  • Shifting from growing food to generating
    agricultural commodities for processing

Intensive Livestock Operation Barns and Complexes

The view from inside…
Some barns hold more than 2000 pigs at a time
with some sites containing 5 or more barns
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Better to take a more nuanced view of farming
  • - generalized views of change in Canadas ( and
    New Zealands ?) farming systems mask diversity
    in both structural features and development
    trajectories (note increasing diversification
    and non-conventional commodities)
  • - attention to distinct pathways / trajectories
    of development, and associated causal factors
    reveals differing contact points between farm
    and town (conflict collaboration co-dependency)

Characterizing Change on the Community Side
  • Long term changes related to demography,
    technology and lifestyle (population aging, a new
    rural economy, commodification and consumption of
    the countryside)
  • Shifting power relations between farm and
    non-farm interests based on numbers and
    municipal restructuring (a watered down
    agricultural voice?)

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Pig Manure Raising a Stink for Factory-Farm
Neighbours (The Record, Nov 9, 2001)
Hogs Challenge Policymakers (Edmonton Journal,
Dec 11, 2000)
Pig poop smells bad for Sask.? That's
hogwash (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Nov 30, 2001)
'Wake up and smell the hogs' (The Ottawa Citizen,
July 10, 2002)
Cottagers raising stink over pigs Concerns
mounting over growing number of large pig farms
along Lake Huron shoreline (The Windsor
Star, Sept 23, 1999)
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Concerned Consumers?
What Alternatives?
  • Organic as alternative ??? to the
    conventional food chain (Hall Mogyorody, 2001
    Kloppenburg et al., 2000)
  • Local food systems (Feenstra, 2002 Hinrichs,
  • Short-food-supply chains and defensive localism
    (Ilbery Maye, 2003 Renting et al., 2003)
  • Direct-sales and the farmers market
  • (Griffin Frongillo, 2003 Hinrichs, 2000
    Holloway Kneafsey, 2000)

Current Research Focus Linking farm and community
through new geographies of food and rural change
  • Recognizing food (quality authenticity etc.) as
    a new force in the re-imaging of farming and the
    making of rural places
  • Food (and fiber) as a basic material interface
    between producer and consumer interests
  • Food as a focus for resistance, local agency,
    (re)regulation and the (re)emergence of place and
    authenticity in food systems

Closing the Grower Consumer Gap and Unpacking
Local Food
  • The semantics of local and good …..
  • local food as safe food cf. good food
  • local food as an oppositional movement a
    biopolitics of food
  • local food as a means of social welfare and
    meeting needs
  • local food as an economic salvation for
    farming competitiveness and entrepreneurship
  • local food as an expression of community

I Got Religion at the Farmers Market
  • The (new) farmers market as a highly visible
    site for trade in food and the negotiation of
    authenticity and meaning in food systems
  • A farmers market is a predominantly fresh food
    market that operates regularly within a
    community, at a focal public location that
    provides a suitable location for farmers and food
    processors to sell farm-origin and associated
    value-added food products to consumers (AFMA
    Jane Adams Communications, 2005)

Not Just Farmers Markets…. Real Farmers
  • Whos legitimate as a real farmer?
  • What commodities are appropriate?
  • What do consumers believe they are supporting?
    Do they care?
  • Defining (and policing) authenticity!
  • The consumer has a very strong idea of whats
    going on here they expect to meet the farmer,
    grower, maker, baker nothing less (J. Adams,

Farmers Markets in Southwestern Ontario
Community-Level Understandings of Local Food,
Farming and Direct-Purchasing
  • Local Food Systems Research Group
  • Department of Geography
  • University of Guelph
  • 2004

  • Objective One
  • To characterize consumer beliefs about the
    nature of the food and food sellers at the
    farmers market.
  • Objective Two
  • To determine the relative importance of farm
    production practices, food origin and direct
    contact as motivations for purchasing and

  • Objective Three
  • . To determine the geographical and
    production-related characteristics of food and
    food sellers at farmers markets in order to
    verify or challenge the consumer beliefs and
    motivations reflected in the previous objectives.

Southwestern Ontario
Participant Profiles
  • Managers (n15) - One for each market
  • Vendors (n84) - Varied with market size
  • Customers (n237) more in the larger markets

Marketing and Assuring Authenticity
  • All across Ontario, shoppers are choosing
  • Markets for nature's best produce, secure in the
    knowledge that the food is fresh, safe to eat and
    the next best thing to harvesting it yourself.
    (FMO, 2003)
  • Regulations for food and food vendors vary from
    market to market, ranging from in-house policies
    to specific city by-laws. Enforcement highly
    variable with moral suasion most common
  • I dont want any bloody hucksters (market

Managers Issues
  • Concerns for future viability mostly
    surrounding the availability of vendors not
  • Varying regulations for vendors and varying
    zeal in enforcement
  • Institutional linkage to FMO important
  • Tradition and the farmers market image
  • Marketing the ethic of the market

Food Vendors
  • Diverse farming sectors crop and livestock with
    over representation of fruit and veg.
  • Local people (within 100 KM most closer)
  • Farmers and re-sellers …. (Oh no!)
  • Express Market loyalty and a sense of belonging
  • An acknowledgement of social capital as important
  • Few certified organic vendors (n7)

Food Vendors
  • Strong sentiments on their food vs. organics
  • It doesnt make sense not to spray. Its only
    five dollars per acre. I cant afford not to be
    productive. I have to make a living at this. I
    thought about converting to organic, but it is
    not economically feasible.
  • One percent of people dont want it sprayed.
    Ninety percent dont want a worm in it. You do
    the math
  • Rain isnt organic. Organic bullshit. It
    doesnt have to be organic to be good food
  • Another vendor disheartened by the lack of
    interest in organic farming Im exhausted from
    selling the concept of organics. 95of them
    havent even heard organic. Its rare to convert

Food Vendors
  • Strong Sentiments defending the reseller
  • Its just fresh. We can beat the timeline. Its
    the same food but we can get it here the same
    day. It might take a week to get it to the
  • Zehrs killed this market. It just came in. The
    old people
  • will die, then what? Young people dont cook.
    They go
  • to Zehrs and buy ready made food. In five to
    ten years
  • this market will be gone. They might wish
    we were all growers but damn it, at least were
    here every week

Vendor Perceptions of Customer Priorities
  • Freshness n 56
  • Quality/Appearance 26
  • Local 14
  • Price 9
  • Direct from farmer 9
  • Taste 8
  • Production Method 5
  • Organic 4

  • Local people (within or adjacent to community)
  • Regular attendence, long-time patrons
  • Regular vendors - a habitual approach to
    shopping (but lt50 prepare a list)
  • Expectations and beliefs ? …. Initially, yes
    eventually place faith in seller.

  • Strong Sentiments
  • Socializing. I feel a tinge of guilt if I dont
    come here.
  • It's a friendly thing. I drove my wife to work.
    I come to
  • socialize. I havent got a damn thing in my
  • I could just as easily buy it over the Internet
    or at the supermarket but I like to talk. Its a
    meeting place as well as a market place.

  • Not so strong sentiments
  • It doesnt take long to realize who grew their
    own products. I call them brokers. Oranges,
    bananas. The farmers who display their name
    usually grow their own. I think it should be the
    supermarket for imported stuff but they seem to
    sell it so maybe its ok.
  • Theres a few that get stuff from the States.
    Id rather see it from Southwestern Ontario.

Customer Visions of Local Food Boundaries
Average Importance of Four Main Themes to
Final Reflections
  • Freshness is paramount
  • Shoppers believe they are supporting Local
  • Loyalty, regularity and trust are clear
  • Local is county or provincial…not U.S.A.
  • Supermarkets and the loss leader
  • Acceptance of conventional farming

Final (interim?) Reflections
  • Concepts and Research Methods
  • Integrating supply and demand perspectives in LFS
  • Associating local food with (re)-linking farm and
  • Practical Contributions
  • Extending strategic thinking about the role of
    the market in LFS and rural revitalization
  • Further Research
  • Phase one of a sub-component in a larger project
  • Where does the farmers market fit in to the
    broader context of local food systems? How
    are local food (and drink) remaking rural Ontario
    AND rural New Zealand?

Raising the Curtain on Farmers Markets in New
  • Currently 12 Farmers Markets in New Zealand (or
    is it 30? depends whos counting!)
  • A now-incorporated Farmers New Zealand Farmers
    Markets Association establishing and
    protecting the brand
  • Early days discussion/debate of what the farmers
    market is and should be

Local Food and The Farmers Market in New
Zealand…. Where from here?
  • The market as a site of support for primary
    producers a historical mainstay of NZ society
    and economy
  • The market as a business incubator for SMEs
    (entrepreneurial spirit)
  • The market as a means of access to the
    necessities of life for less advantaged persons
    (Northland?) OR…….

Constructing and Consuming Experience and Place
in Rural New Zealand
  • Artisan foods / slow food
  • Commodifying rural space for urban and/or
    transient consumers
  • Local Food (and beverage) and ambience as a
    transformative happening in rural communities
    with the effect of including some and excluding
  • A first look at Matakana ……..

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