International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Motivations, Reflexivity and Food Provisioning in Alternative Food Networks: Case Studies in Two Medium-sized Towns in the Netherlands

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 19, issue 3 (2012), pages 365-382

Author: Esther J. Veena and Petra Derkzenb and Johannes S.C. Wiskerkeb
Affiliation: aApplied Plant Research, Wageningen UR, Lelystad, Netherlands; bRural Sociology Group, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, Netherlands

ISSN: 0798-1759


Grow your own is emerging as a trendy urban activity. Becoming involved in ‘farming’ inside the city is framed in the media, on the Internet and in policy discourse as an emergent food movement. In this article we look at food provisioning practices inside cities and situate these in the literature on alternative food networks, responding to two of Treager’s main critiques. We use the concept of ‘food provisioning practices’ to overcome the critique of producer–consumer dichotomy since the concept treats people holistically as people undertaking activities. Rather than assuming that involvement in AFNs does or should represent a radical political act for any of its participants, we disentangle the multiple beliefs and motivations – including the most mundane – of the actors involved in two cases. We find that, because people are required to be actively involved in the production of their food, participants of both cases are neither only producers nor only consumers; they are both. The gardens show a ‘sliding scale of producership’. Our research also shows that, although reflexive motivations are present, many participants are unwilling to frame their involvement as political, nor do all participants see themselves as part of a movement. Hence, although personal choices may become political, we have to be careful not to ascribe attributes to participants that they themselves do not formulate. Moreover, we found that mundane motivations are important as well, and that political articulations do not predict actual involvement perfectly. This means therefore, unlike what Watts et al. argue, that reflexivity is not necessarily connected to the strength of the network.

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