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The trouble with authenticity: separating ideology from practice at the farmers’ market


  • John Smithers


  • Alun Joseph


Farmers’ markets have enjoyed a resurgence in the past two decades in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This increase in popularity is attributed to a host of environmental, social, and economic factors, often related to the alleged benefits of local food, alternative farming, and producer–consumer interactions. Steeped in tradition, there are also widely held assumptions related to the type of food and food vendors that belong at a farmers’ market in addition to the type of experience that should take place. There remains a need to explore and analyze these fundamental aspects of the farmers’ market and to consider how they influence their formation and function. This paper argues that discourses of authenticity are central to the identity of the farmers’ market, and that they are constructed differently “from above” by those seeking to regulate farmers’ markets in particular jurisdictions and “from below” by managers, producers, and consumers at individual markets. A literature-based discussion is complemented and grounded by consideration of institutional statements regarding authenticity and of key results from a survey of managers, food vendors, and customers at 15 farmers’ markets in Ontario, Canada. It is demonstrated that while the general discourse about authenticity at the farmers’ market is built around strict, almost ideological assumptions about the presence of “local food” and those who produce it, community-level responses reflect considerable diversity in the interpretation and composition of the farmers’ market. It is suggested that a binary view of authenticity, where some farmers’ markets are cast as “real” and others presumably not, is highly problematic as it tends to ignore a large and important middle ground with multiple identities. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Suggested Citation

  • John Smithers & Alun Joseph, 2010. "The trouble with authenticity: separating ideology from practice at the farmers’ market," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(2), pages 239-247, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:2:p:239-247
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9250-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew Griffin & Edward Frongillo, 2003. "Experiences and perspectives of farmers from Upstate New York farmers' markets," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 20(2), pages 189-203, June.
    2. Kim Darby & Marvin T. Batte & Stan Ernst & Brian Roe, 2008. "Decomposing Local: A Conjoint Analysis of Locally Produced Foods," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(2), pages 476-486.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9722-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Phil Mount, 2012. "Growing local food: scale and local food systems governance," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 29(1), pages 107-121, March.
    3. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:35:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10460-017-9797-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Mary Beckie & Emily Kennedy & Hannah Wittman, 2012. "Scaling up alternative food networks: farmers’ markets and the role of clustering in western Canada," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 29(3), pages 333-345, September.
    5. Murakami, Tomoaki & Nakajima, Shinsaku & Takahashi, Taro & Nishihara, Yukinaga & Imai, Asako & Kikushima, Ryousuke & Sato, Takeshi, 2014. "Spatially Varying Impacts of Farmers Markets on Agricultural Land Use," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170668, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.


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