Jun 11 2009

Local food movement: Come and get it!

by at 3:45 pm under Uncategorized

Every other weekend, I look forward to visiting the local farmer’s market. Bright red tomatoes, farm-fresh eggs, and the waft of spice-scented apples – it’s a veritable feast for the senses. I not only feel that I benefit from the visual feast and “local” nature of the food, I know I am supporting families and farms that care deeply about their produce and their standard of living. It’s a luxury that I can (mostly) afford; I continue to frequent farmers markets because my bounded rationality is low – I know almost everything about the products and the people.

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

This led me to wonder: can the local food movement serve as a model to reverse the global food crisis?  Globally, there are already food markets in many major cities, but it seems to be a city-region phenomenon in that the support system of mass-grocery markets and the diversification of products underwrite some of the cost.  The most at-risk in the global food crisis are communities that are struggling to provide for themselves in the wake of either exogenous or endogenous events. The “luxury” of a shared market may seem improbable for many — but there may be hope. Utilizing economic geographic theory (through the lens of Jane Jacobs and Michael Storper et. all), I plan to explore the potential market effects that a small local change could potentially enact on a regional level through agglomeration and shared resources.

For my research, I will need to perform a network analysis of several successful food markets to see how they are enacted and perform within their city-region culture. I also need to look at the areas that are hardest hit by the global food crisis and see what role the community has in the culture – whether collectivist or individualist – to dig into their knowledge-sharing and market environments. As I look at how technological innovation can curb bounded rationalities and increase diversification of products, I hope to see windows of opportunity to strengthen the community through the markets, and cultural aspects, of food.

Civic engagement in a collective manner can provide a balance especially to countries with income-equality as the city-regions outperform the rural areas. The insertion of local food markets may help build stronger small city-regions as the markets are communicated throughout the region, and will also provide informal institutions of trust and feedback loops. This may provide collective knowledge of what can grow in or be introduced into the region and will create a close network so that if there is one innovator or change agent (Roberts), the rest of the community will be in close proximity to witness whether they too can profit by the innovation.

One way in which trust and shared resources can emerge for the greater good may be through community-run growing areas that are institutionally-supported and reside on the outskirts of cities. “Geographic proximity can become a positive advantage when it enables parties to build networks, trust, common interpretations, and reputations.” (Learner & Storper, 2001, 14).  Civic engagement and collective action may help drive agglomeration to regional interdependence and market success. By examining the many-faceted regional networks through economic geography theory, I plan to see whether positive externalities can occur in globally impoverished areas through small infrastructure developments.

No responses yet | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.