A Geographic Exploration of the Social and Economic Sustainability of Farmers' Markets and the Rural Communities that Make Them Work
Sage, Jeremy L.
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The food we eat is entwined within our social and economic fabrics, forming food systems incorporating everything from environmental conditions, to the communities that grow it, to its path from farm to table. Thus the study food is inherently interdisciplinary, and requires scholarly flexibility to make sense of it. This dissertation seeks to provide the needed flexibility through the combined knowledge and methodologies of Economics, Community and Rural Sociology, and Geography. Each of the three chapters contained here, provide a varied integration of each discipline. Chapter one, "Decisions to Direct Market: Geographic Influences on Conventions in Organic Production," draws from a theoretical critique, Conventions Theory, of both traditional economics and sociology to formulate a socio-economic exploration of the influences of ideology on organic producer motivations for participating in direct-to-consumers markets. This chapter additionally allows these ideological influences the ability to be subject to changing geographical locations that may alter the responses to various stimuli. A technique called Geographically Weighted Regression accounts for this non-stationary response. Chapter two, "Counter-Hegemonic Possibilities: Recovering the Spaces of Food Consumption?," turns the subject to the positioning of farmers' markets within the context of the larger industrial and population distributions of Washington State. This chapter seeks to uncover the relationship between the locations of farmers' markets and that of supermarkets who are themselves related to the overall industrial locations patterns of the state. The local food movement possesses a dialogue of re-embedding agriculture and food within its social context. This chapter explores whether this leads to a more equitable distribution of healthy food options. Chapter three, "If You Build It, Will They Come?: Assessing Accessibility Influences on Low Income Consumer Participation in Farmers' Markets," continues the thread of chapter two through a consideration of potential rural and urban food deserts that are created partially as a results of the location realizations uncovered in chapter two. I then utilize a series of spatially informed regressions to consider the influence of geographic accessibility on the willingness and/or ability of recipients of food assistance programs, the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, to utilize their vouchers.