Food Utopias, (Mature) Care, and Hope



Published Dec 31, 2021
Paul V Stock


The current period is one of worry and concern over collapse. While many still go hungry, we anticipate a future of food without farmers. Yet in the wake of multiple disasters, the new can emerge. With a focus on food systems centred on care, utopias provide us with tools for dialogue that communicate problems, but also point to possible pathways forward. Following a theory of (mature) care focused on agri-food, food utopias offers a trialectic of critique, experimentation, and process to shape agri-food scholarship of the hopeful, care-centred stories of food and transformation. In combination with ideas about agri-food systems futures, this paper offers examples of care and food utopias from the US Midwest. This is an invitation to combine feminist ideas of care theory and food utopias scholarship that can help broaden our understanding of justice and scholarship around food, farmers, community, and feeding the world.



How to Cite

Stock, P. V. (2021) “Food Utopias, (Mature) Care, and Hope”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 27(2), pp. 89–107. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v27i2.92.
Abstract 243 | PDF Downloads 200


Alario MV and Freudenburg WR (2007) Atoms for peace, atoms for war: probing the paradoxes of modernity. Sociological inquiry 77(2): 219–240.
Almås R and Campbell H (eds) (2012) Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture. Research in Rural Sociology and Development. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.
Anderson M (2009) Charting Growth to Good Food: Developing Indicators and Measures of Good Food. Arlington, VA: Wallace Center Winrock International.
Ashwood L (2018) Rural Conservatism or Anarchism? The Pro-state, Stateless, and Anti-state Positions. Rural Sociology 83(4). DOI: 10.1111/ruso.12226.
Beacham J (2018) Organising food differently: Towards a more-than-human ethics of care for the Anthropocene. Organization 25: 533–549. DOI: 10.1177/1350508418777893.
Bell MM (1994) Childerly: Nature and Morality in a Country Village. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Bell MM (2018) City of the Good: Nature, Religion, and the Ancient Search for What Is Right. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Born B and Purcell M (2006) Avoiding the Local Trap: Scale and Food Systems in Planning Research. Journal of Planning Education and Research 26: 195–207.
Brandth B and Bolsø A (1994) Men, women and biotechnology: A feminist care ethic in agricultural science? In: Whatmore S, Marsden T, and Lowe P (eds) Gender and Rurality. London, UK: David Fulton Publishers, pp. 136–149.
Breines W (1980) Community and Organization: The New Left and Michels’ ‘Iron Law’. Social Problems 27(4): 419–429. DOI: 10.2307/800170.
Bronson K and Knezevic I (2019) The Digital Divide and How it Matters for Canadian Food System Equity. Canadian Journal of Communication 44(2): 137–154.
Burch K, Legun K and Campbell H (2018) Not defined by the numbers: Distinction, dissent and democratic possibilities in debating the data. In: Forney J, Rosin, C, and Campbell H (eds) Agri-Environmental Governance as an Assemblage. London: Routledge, pp. 137–154.
Burton R, Forney J, Stock P, et al. (2021) The Good Farmer: Culture and Identity in Food and Agriculture. Earthscan food and agriculture series. London: Routledge.
Carolan M (2011) The Real Cost of Cheap Food. London: Routledge.
Carolan M (2017) Publicising Food: Big Data, Precision Agriculture, and Co-Experimental Techniques of Addition. Sociologia Ruralis 57(2): 135–154. DOI: 10.1111/soru.12120.
Carolan M (2018) Lands changing hands: Experiences of succession and farm (knowledge) acquisition among first-generation, multigenerational, and aspiring farmers. Land Use Policy 79: 179–189. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.08.011.
Carolan MS (2018) The Food Sharing Revolution: How Start-Ups, Pop-Ups, and Co-Ops Are Changing the Way We Eat. New York: Island Press.
Carver GW (1914) Being Kind to the Soil. The Negro Farmer, 31 January.
Charbonneau B (2018) The green light: a self-criticism of the ecological movement (tran. C Roy). London: Bloomsbury.
Cox R (2010) Some problems and possibilities of caring. Ethics, Place & Environment 13(2): 113–130. DOI: 10.1080/13668791003778800.
Cox R, Kneafsey M, Holloway L, et al. (2013) Greater than the sum of the parts? unpacking ethics of care within a community supported agriculture scheme. In: Goodman M and Sage C (eds) Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, pp. 61–82.
Cullen A (2017) Burying Aldo Leopold. The Progressive Populist 23(12): 20.
Curry JanelM (2002) Care Theory and ”caring’’ systems of agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 19(2): 119–131. DOI: 10.1023/A:1016074832696.
Darby DB, Hossler T and Stock P (2019) New Farmers 2014/2018. Lawrence, KS: P & T Committee.
Desmarais AA and Wittman H (2014) Farmers, foodies and First Nations: getting to food sovereignty in Canada. Journal of Peasant Studies 41(6): 1153–1173.
DeVault ML (1994) Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Dwiartama A and Rosin C (2014a) Exploring agency beyond humans: the compatibility of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and resilience thinking. Ecology and Society 19(3).
Dwiartama A and Rosin C (2014b) Exploring agency beyond humans: the compatibility of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and resilience thinking. Ecology and Society 19(3). The Resilience Alliance. DOI: 10.5751/ES-06805-190328.
Ellul J (1980) The power of technique and the ethics of non-power. In: Woodward K (ed.) The Myths of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture. Madison, WI: Coda Press, pp. 242–247.
Emery SB, Forney J and Wynne-Jones S (2017) The more-than-economic dimensions of cooperation in food production. Journal of Rural Studies 53(Supplement C): 229–235. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.05.017.
Farrell J (2015) Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict.
Forney J and Stock PV (2014) Conversion of family farms and resilience in Southland, New Zealand. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 21(1): 7–29.
Garforth L (2018) Green Utopias: Environmental Hope before and after Nature. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Gibson-Graham JK (2008) Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds. Progress in Human Geography 32(5): 613–632.
Gibson-Graham JK (2014) Rethinking the Economy with Thick Description and Weak Theory. Current Anthropology 55(S9): S147–S153. DOI: 10.1086/676646.
Gilligan C (2003) In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gillo C (2014) Ricado Salvador: Build a New Food System. Available at: (accessed 26 May 2015).
Goodman D (2004) Rural Europe redux? Reflections on alternative agro‐food networks and paradigm change. Sociologia ruralis 44(1): 3–16. DOI:
Gosnell H, Grimm K and Goldstein BE (2020) A half century of Holistic Management: what does the evidence reveal? Agriculture and Human Values 37(3): 849–867. DOI: 10.1007/s10460-020-10016-w.
Grey S and Patel R (2015) Food sovereignty as decolonization: Some contributions from Indigenous movements to food system and development politics. Agriculture and Human Values 32(3): 431–444.
Guthman J (2004) Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hassink J, Moriggi A, Senni S, et al. (2020) Caring Agricultural and Food Practices. In: Duncan J, Carolan M, and Wiskerke JSC (eds) Routledge Handbook of Sustainable and Regnerative Food Systems. London: Routledge, pp. 126–140.
Held V (2006) The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Horsley L (2018) Tiny JoCo town is booming. That’s not good for everyone. Kansas City Star, 26 April. Available at: (accessed 9 November 2018).
Howorth Muriel (1960) Atomic Gardening. Eastbourne, Sussex: New World Publications : Distributed in U.S.A. by Rogers Book Service.
Jackson T (2009) Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Routledge.
Jarosz L (2011) Nourishing women: toward a feminist political ecology of community supported agriculture in the United States. Gender, Place & Culture 18(3). Taylor & Francis: 307–326.
Jarosz L (2014) Considering sovereignty, care ethics and policy in food politics. Dialogues in Human Geography 4(2): 229–232. DOI: 10.1177/2043820614537162.
Kessler A, Parkins JR and Huddart Kennedy E (2016) Environmental Harm and “the Good Farmer”: Conceptualizing Discourses of Environmental Sustainability in the Beef Industry. Rural Sociology 81(2): 172–193. DOI: 10.1111/ruso.12091.
Kimmerer RW (2013) Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis, MN.
Law J (2010) Care and Killing: Tensions in Verterinary Practice. In: Mol A, Moser I, and Pols J (eds) Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. Bielefeld, Netherlands: Transcript Verlag, pp. 57–69. Available at: http://www. heterogeneities. net/publications/Law200 8CareAndKilling .pdf.
Le Heron R, Campbell H, Lewis N, et al. (2016) Biological Economies: Experimentation and the Politics of Agri-Food Frontiers. London: Routledge.
Leighton P (2018) Mass Salmonella poisoning by the Peanut Corporation of America: Lessons in state-corporate food crime. A Handbook of Food Crime: Immoral and Illegal Practices in the Food Industry and What to Do About Them. Policy Press: 175.
Leslie IS, Wypler J and Bell MM (2019) Relational Agriculture: Gender, Sexuality, and Sustainability in U.S. Farming. Society & Natural Resources 32(8): 853–874. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2019.1610626.
Levitas R (1990) The Concept of Utopia. Hempstead, UK: Syracuse University Press.
Levitas R (2013) Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. New York: Palgrave macmillan.
Little J and Austin P (1996) Women and the rural idyll. Journal of rural studies 12(2): 101–111.
Lowe P, Clark J, Seymour S, et al. (1997) Moralizing the Environment: Countryside Change, Farming and Pollution. London: UCL Press Limited. Available at:
Meadows D (1996) Envisioning a sustainable world. In: Costanza R, Segura O, and Olsen JMF (eds) Getting Down to Earth: Practical Applications of Ecological Economics. Washington, DC: Island Press, pp. 117–26.
Mol A, Moser I and Pols J (2010) Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript Verlag.
Muirhead B and Campbell H (2012) The worlds of dairy: Comparing dairy frameworks in Canada and New Zealand in light of future shocks to food systems. In: Almås R and Campbell H (eds) Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 147–168.
Nelson J and Stock P (2018) Repeasantisation in The United States. Sociologia Ruralis 58(1): 83–103. DOI: 10.1111/soru.12132.
Noddings N (1984) Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press.
O’Brien KJ (2017) The Violence of Climate Change: Lessons of Resistance from Nonviolent Activists. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Patel R (2007) Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing.
Pettersen T (2008) Comprehending Care: Problems and Possibilities in the Ethics of Care. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Phillipov M and Goodman MK (2017) The celebrification of farmers: celebrity and the new politics of farming. Celebrity Studies 8(2): 346–350.
Piatti C (2015) Slow Food Presidia: the nostalgic and the utopian. In: Stock P, Carolan M, and Rosin C (eds) Food Utopias. London: Routledge, pp. 88–106.
Ploeg JD van der (2009) The New Peasantries: Struggles for Autonomy and Sustainability in an Era of Empire and Globalization. London, UK: Earthscan.
Ricoeur P (1986) Lectures on Ideology and Utopia (ed. GH Taylor). New York: Columbia University Press.
Robinson KS (1990) Pacific Edge: Three Californias. New York: Ace.
Rosin C (2012) Food security and the justification of productivism in New Zealand. Journal of Rural Studies.
Rosin C (2014) Engaging the productivist ideology through utopian politics. Dialogues in Human Geography 4(2): 221–224. DOI: 10.1177/2043820614537165.
Rosin CJ, Campbell H and Stock PV (2011) Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture. Earthscan.
Sanford AW (2017) Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Sargent LT (1994) The three faces of utopianism revisited. Utopian Studies 5(1): 1–37.
Sargisson L (2001) Green Utopias of Self and Other. In: Goodwin B (ed.) The Philosophy of Utopia. New York: Routledge, pp. 140–156.
Sbicca J (2017) Resetting the “Good Food” Table. The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action: 107.
Shay J (1994) Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. New York: Atheneum.
Sherren K and Kent C (2017) Who’s afraid of Allan Savory? Scientometric polarization on Holistic Management as competing understandings. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 1–16. DOI: 10.1017/S1742170517000308.
Shisler RC and Sbicca J (2019) Agriculture as Carework: The Contradictions of Performing Femininity in a Male-Dominated Occupation. Society & Natural Resources 32(8): 875–892. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2019.1597234.
Shucksmith M (2016) Re-imagining the rural: From rural idyll to Good Countryside. Journal of Rural Studies 59: 163–172.
Smith C (2010) What Is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Smith C (2015) To Flourish or Destruct: A Personalist Theory of Human Goods, Motivations, Failure, and Evil. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Steel C (2009) Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives. New York: Vintage.
Stock P, Carolan M and Rosin C (eds) (2015) Food Utopias: Reconsidering Citizenship, Ethics and Community. London: Routledge/Earthscan.
Stock PV (2007) ‘Good Farmers’ as Reflexive Producers: an Examination of Family Organic Farmers in the US Midwest. Sociologia Ruralis 47(2): 83–102.
Stock PV (2010a) Catholic Worker Economics: Subsistence and Resistance Strategies of Householding. Bulletin for the Study of Religion 40(1): 16–25.
Stock PV (2010b) Sociology and the Mix Tape: A Metaphor of Creativity. The American Sociologist 41(3): 277–291.
Stock PV (2012) Consensus Social Movements and the Catholic Worker. Politics and Religion 5(01): 83–102.
Stock PV (2014) The Perennial Nature of the Catholic Worker Farms: A Reconsideration of Failure. Rural Sociology 79(2): 143–173. DOI: 10.1111/ruso.12029.
Stock PV (2015) Contradictions in hope and care. In: Stock P, Carolan MS, and Rosin C (eds) Food Utopias: Reimagining Citizenship, Ethics and Community. London, UK: Routledge/Earthscan, pp. 171–194.
Stock PV and Brickell C (2013) Nature’s good for you: Sir Truby King, Seacliff Asylum and the greening of health care in New Zealand, 1889–1922. Health & Place 22: 107–114.
Stock PV and Forney J (2014) Farmer autonomy and the farming self. Journal of Rural Studies 36: 160–171.
Stock PV and Szrot L (2020) Justice. In: Routledge Handbook of Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems. London, UK: Routledge, pp. 98–112.
Stock PV, Darby DB and Hossler T (2019) Experiments in the Field. Writing with the Light, Cultural Anthropology. Available at:
Todorov T (1996) Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps. New York: Metropolitan.
Tronto JC (1993) Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York: Psychology Press.
Tucker C (2013) Using social network analysis and framing to assess collective identity in the genetic engineering resistance movement of Aotearoa New Zealand. Social Movement Studies 12(1): 81–95.
Wald N (2015) Towards Utopias of Prefigurative Politics and Food Sovereignty: Experiences of Politicised Peasant Food Production. In: Stock P, Carolan M, and Rosin C (eds) Food Utopias: Reconsidering Citizenship, Ethics and Community. Oxon, UK: Routledge/Earthscan, pp. 107–125.
Wald N and Hill D (2016) Anarchist Geographies in the Rural Global South. In: White RJ, Springer S, and Lopes de Souza M (eds) The Practice of Freedom: Anarchism, Geography, and the Spirit of Revolt. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, p. 23. Available at:
Wells BL and Gradwell S (2001) Gender and resource management: Community supported agriculture as caring-practice. Agriculture and Human Values 18(1): 107–119.
Whatmore S (2002) Hybrid Geographies: Natures Cultures Spaces. New York: Sage.
White MM (2018) Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. Justice, power, and politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Whyte KP and Cuomo C (2016) Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics (eds SM Gardiner and A Thompson). Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199941339.013.22.
Wilmer H, Fernández-Giménez ME, Ghajar S, et al. (2019) Managing for the middle: rancher care ethics under uncertainty on Western Great Plains rangelands. Agriculture and Human Values. Springer: 1–20.
Winance M (2010) Care and Disability: Practices of Experimenting, Tinkering With, and Arranging People and Technical Aids. In: Mol A, Moser I, and Pols J (eds) Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, pp. 93–118.
Wolf SA and Bonanno A (eds) (2013) The Neoliberal Regime in the Agri-Food Sector: Crisis, Resilience, and Restructuring. London: Routledge.
Wright DW (2005) Fields of cultural contradictions: Lessons from the tobacco patch. Agriculture and Human Values 22(4): 465–477.
Wright EO (2011) Real Utopias. Contexts 10(2): 36–42.