Participatory Action Research at the First Annual Gathering of the Jewish Farmer Network

Authors: Anika Rice, University of Wisconsin, Zachary Goldberg*, Penn State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Food Systems
Keywords: participatory action research, agroecology, Jewish farming, ethnography, scholar activism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Jewish Farmer Network (JFN) is a North American grassroots organization with the goal of supporting the economic, social, and cultural vibrancy of Jewish agriculture by connecting Jewish farmers to resources and community around the world. This study combines event ethnography and participatory action research at JFN’s inaugural conference to facilitate collective movement building and action. Through fieldwork completed in coordination with JFN founders and roughly 90 members in October 2019 - February 2020, we use PAR to explore tensions around (1) the politics of identity in movement building and (2) agroecological knowledge production and exchange. Our ‘thick PAR’ (ethnography plus PAR) highlights JFN’s challenges with navigating broad inclusion across race, sexual orientation, gender identities, Jewish identities, age and geography in the building of a niche social movement. We explore the rifts related to politicization and depoliticization of the movement and what this means for enacting structural and social change in the food system: while some members find it imperative to center decolonization, diaspora, critical place-making and indigenous solidarity, others may feel alienated by an explicit political call. Secondly, shared interests in the production and dissemination of Jewish agroecological knowledge is a uniting factor. We examine the potential that PAR holds for catalyzing collective action at a conference of Jewish farmers. We use PAR to both frame our practice of ethical and sustainable scholar activism and to ask questions about how we can improve our accountability as both researchers and participants of a social movement.

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