Querying social-ecological embeddedness: Farmers' market social relations and environmental farming practices in the New York City region

Authors: Russell Hedberg*, Pennsylvania State University, Karl S Zimmerer, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Farmer decision-making, Local food system, social-ecological systems, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Food system localization is often advocated by academics, activists, and policy makers, especially in developed nations, as a means of effectively addressing the negative social and ecological impacts of current systems of food production. Activists and academics alike point to the range of different social relations undergirding the proximity and face-to-face interactions that are defining features of local food system initiatives as important factors in achieving these sustainability goals. Social embeddedness, which posits that economic activity is entangled with on-going social relations, is frequently used to describe the alterity of local food system initiatives, but much of this work has yet to assess how embedded social relations affect market functioning or farmer decision-making—particularly for environmental aspects of farm management. In this paper we extend the concept of social embeddedness to consider the extent to which environmental practices on participating farms are enmeshed with the on-going social relations in local food system initiatives. The concept is then used it to examine how social relations in a farmers’ market network in New York City, USA, influence environmental practices on participating farms, and the implications of social-ecological embeddedness for building more sustainable systems of food production and provision.

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