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Alternative Strategies in the UK Agro-Food System: Interrogating the Alterity of Farmers’ Markets

Sociologia Ruralis Volume 44, Issue 4, pages 395–415, October 2004

James Kirwan, October 2004

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Summary :

In recent years we have witnessed the development of numerous alternative strategies (AS) within the UK agro-food system intent on overcoming, or at least circumventing, some of the problems associated with the globalisation of food production and consumption. Within these AS, there is an intention to reconnect food to the social, cultural and environmental context of its production, leading to considerable interest in their potential to engender sustained change within the food system. However, it is apparent that AS are likely to face various pressures on their underlying integrity and alterity, and their possible re-incorporation within mainstream processes. There is a need, therefore, to interrogate the durability of AS, which this paper does through its critical examination of farmers’ markets (FMs). Drawing upon a number of FM cases studies, it examines the engagement of producers and consumers, both with each other, but also with the exchange context of FMs. The resultant data are assessed within the conceptual domains of embeddedness and regard as a means of better understanding the nature of FMs as an AS. The paper concludes by outlining the implications of this research for our comprehension of AS more broadly.