Paradise or pavement: The social constructions of the environment in two urban farmers' markets and their implications for environmental justice and sustainability

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Abstract Urban aspects of local food systems, such as farmers' markets, provide an opportunity for city residents to “do” environmentalism within their own home places. What environmentalism is and how to do it, however, vary greatly with the social location of the population involved. This paper investigates the social construction of the environment through participant-observation research at two urban farmers' markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. In one farmers' market, located in a largely affluent and white neighbourhood, locally grown organic food becomes a symbol through which urban eaters can connect to wild nature. This framing provides an urban corollary to the wilderness narrative that dominates the US environmental movement. In another case, located in a low-income area, the farmers' market's largely African-American managers and vendors liken the farmers' market to environmental justice efforts. By constructing the environment as the places where the customers it targets “live, work and pla...

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  • Alison Alkon

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