Fresh food just a click away: Producers and online commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors: Sasha Pesci*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Food Systems, Agricultural Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: food systems, agriculture, pandemic, online commerce, platforms
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The use of online commerce for food items has significantly increased in the past decade and has seen accelerated growth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Market disturbances during the pandemic have caused many Alternative Food Network (AFN) producers to start or increase their use of online commerce. In addition, there has been an apparent surge of consumer interest in direct-to-consumer food purchasing, and online platforms and social media may be acting as key mediators between consumers and producers during this time. Yet, access to online commerce is uneven, since it requires certain resources, such as a specific skill set, reliable internet connection, and considerable labor power. This structurally disadvantages producers who do not have access to these resources. While a surge of consumer demand for AFN products may be beneficial for agroecological producers, online commerce may contribute to both diluting the social and ecological values of AFNs and intensifying the marginalization of lower-resource farmers. Focusing on direct-market farmers and ranchers in California, this study examined producers' use of online commerce during March-December 2020. This presentation will discuss preliminary findings relating to how the pandemic affected AFN producers' use of online commerce; what resources enabled or prevented producers' access to online commerce; the influence of online commerce on producers' profitability and overall resilience during the pandemic; as well as the differences in access to and use of online commerce along the lines of social difference (particularly age, race/ethnicity, national origin, and primary language).

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