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Farmers markets surged in popularity in the United States over the past two decades. The negative consequences of large-scale, industrialized agriculture and changing consumer interests together stimulated this drive towards alternative farming practices and local, direct-from-producer foods. As a result, farmers markets created the opportunity for new, small-scale producers to enter the marketplace and make a living off the land. The need persists to explore the social aspects of this food phenomenon from the perspective of the farmer. Using in-depth interviews with farmers and fieldwork at several farmers markets, I examine how producers became and remained vendors at farmers markets. In the first empirical analysis (Chapter 4), I use farmers' retrospective accounts to outline the ways farming was discovered and the indirect and lengthy process of becoming a farmers market vendor. Along with market opportunity, I find that this process was dependent on a combination of social support, personal determination and unforeseeable life circumstances. In my second analysis (Chapter 5), I use a combination of interviews, fieldwork, and personal experience as a farmer and vendor to explore the spoken and unspoken requirement for farmers to create an "authentic" farmers market. Farmers' success at the market depended on their ability to create this authentic experience. I find that farmers used strictly enforced market rules and carefully crafted product displays, personal presentations, and social interactions to meet customers' expectations of legitimate farmers and an authentic farmers market. Additionally, I show how these expectations and presentations directly contrasted with the realities of life on the farm. Overall, my research shows how socialized perceptions of farming determined farmers' willingness to adopt the occupation. Once in, farmers sustained their place at the market by meeting customers' expectations and standards of authenticity. Often times this meant farmers had to cover and hide the ugly aspects of their work. These findings show that expectations, meanings, and the social interactions that create and maintain them are import factors to consider in research connecting food production and consumption.
Farmers Markets, Farming, Food, Identity, Social Construction
Date of Defense
April 11, 2016.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Sociology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Douglas Schrock, Professor Directing Dissertation; Jeffrey Broome, University Representative; John Reynolds, Committee Member; Hernan Ramirez, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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