Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 729–742 | Cite as

Improving farmers markets and challenging neoliberalism in Argentina

  • Isaac Sohn LeslieEmail author


Although typically invisible, neoliberal policies and ideologies are often at the root of why farmers markets struggle to offer affordable prices for consumers, sufficient income for farmers, and expand socially and environmentally sustainable food systems. Argentinian ferias francas, a variation on farmers markets, offer a unique case to examine how they may be designed to alleviate these issues by challenging neoliberalism through legislative mechanisms. Ferias francas emerged as an explicitly anti-neoliberal, grassroots response to Argentina’s expansion of neoliberal agricultural policies that stimulated global agribusiness and displaced small-scale farmers. Organizers partnered with municipal, provincial, and national governments to develop legislation to support small-scale farmers and to make the network of ferias competitive with global agribusiness. I ask, how can organizers expand farmers markets’ potential to fulfill the social and environmental goals of agri-food movements, given neoliberal capitalism’s constraints and contradictions? I analyze feria legislation by situating it in its social and historical context, and comparing legislative mechanisms to core elements of neoliberalism in the economy and in the everyday mentalities of agri-food activists. I find that mechanisms such as setting prices lower than neighboring supermarkets and establishing uniform prices for feria goods contest some aspects of neoliberalism. However, the ferias also reproduce neoliberalism, and are still subject to the price standards set under the global neoliberal agroeconomy, raising questions about their prospects for sustainability under neoliberal capitalism. This analysis of feria legislation makes neoliberalism’s influence on farmers markets visible and highlights legislative mechanisms that address some of its harmful effects.


Sustainable agriculture Farmers markets Capitalism Law Policy Latin America 



Alternative food networks


Genetically modified



I thank Catherine Ashcraft, Christina Jolejole-Foreman, Thomas Safford, and the Environmental Planning, Policy, and Sustainability lab at the University of New Hampshire for their valuable comments. I am grateful to Pinar Batur at Vassar College, Danielle Falzon at Brown University, Michael Bell and Angela Serrano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community and Environmental SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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