Over the past generation, advocates for healthier food and agriculture have drawn on the farm-to-fork trope to define spatial arrangements in the foodshed. Consider farmers' markets, food hubs, community supported agriculture (CSA), co-ops, rooftop, community, and schoolyard gardens, 100-Mile Diets, and urban farms: the architecture of reform is endless, but every part seeks to reduce the distance between food producers (farms) and consumers (forks). For all the intuitive appeal of the farm-to-fork trope, however, there are other ways to think about the local food movement's spatial configurations that could be more inclusive, multidimensional, and politically potent. This article argues that instead of a distance versus proximity orientation, good-food advocates might envision a kind of cultural ecology of various efforts toward healthier food and agriculture. This perspective shows the various organizational efforts of a region interacting like species in a healthy ecosystem. Where farmers' markets might be gentrified, for example, community gardens and urban farms might not; where urban farms might be labor intensive, food hubs might not and could offer healthier food in urban spaces; where food hubs might not be convenient enough, virtual marketplaces might. The downsides of one part are carried by the advantages of another; the limitations of the first are helped by the strengths of the next. What matters here are not just the particular individual innovations—farmers' markets, CSAs, food hubs, etc.—but the ways in which they overlap to build an interdependent whole. No longer one-dimensional, this cultural ecology adds political and organizational integrity to the physical integrity of food.
Don’t Mono-crop the Movement: Toward a Cultural Ecology of Local Food
B. R. Cohen is an assistant professor at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, and works as part of the Lehigh Valley’s local food movement. He is the author of Notes from the Ground: Science, Soil and Society in the American Countryside (2009) and coeditor, with Gwen Ottinger, of Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement (2011). He is currently at work on a cultural and environmental history of food adulteration, “The Pure and the Adulterated,” a story about changing relationships between authenticity, nature, and food in the late nineteenth century.
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B. R. Cohen; Don’t Mono-crop the Movement: Toward a Cultural Ecology of Local Food. Gastronomica 1 February 2014; 14 (1): 5–8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2014.14.1.5
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