Civic agriculture and community engagement
- 1.8k Downloads
Several scholars have claimed that small-scale agriculture in which farmers sell goods to the local market has the potential to strengthen social ties and a sense of community, a phenomenon referred to as “civic agriculture.” Proponents see promise in the increase in the number of community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers markets, and other locally orientated distribution systems as well as the growing interest among consumers for buying locally produced goods. Yet others have suggested that these novel or reborn distribution mechanisms are still primarily means of instrumental economic exchange and that optimistic characterizations of a renewed sense of community emerging from these practices are unfounded. This study provides an empirical assessment of the extent to which these community-based agriculture markets are associated with connection to community, volunteerism, and civic and political activities. In order to assess the relationship between civic agriculture and community engagement, we surveyed over 1,300 people in the Mid-Hudson region of New York State. The study design includes “civic agriculture participants” as the unit of analysis, defined as CSA farm members, shoppers at independent health food stores, and farmers market patrons. For comparison, a telephone survey of randomly selected residents of the region’s general population was also conducted. Unlike studies that focus solely on the perceptions of certain civic agriculture participants (e.g., CSA members), by comparing the perceptions and behaviors of those engaged in a range of civic agriculture practices, we are able to identify the effects of different forms of participation. The results demonstrate higher levels of voluntarism and engagement in local politics among civic agriculture participants relative to the general population. In addition, we found variation among those engaged in different forms of civic agriculture, with those immersed in more socially embedded forms of exchange demonstrating greater community and political involvement. These findings lend empirical support to the civic agriculture thesis.
KeywordsCivic agriculture Civic engagement Sustainable agriculture Community supported agriculture Farmers markets
The authors would like to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and the contribution of student research assistants Chris Utzig, Carolyn Burgess, Jenna Dern, Layla Al Qaisi, Maria Davila, and Emily Sobel. The authors also wish to thank the farmers, business owners and farmers market managers who allowed us to survey their members and customers. This project was supported by funding from the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz, the United University Professions and the National Science Foundation (Award #0550550).
- Almond, G.A., and S. Verba. 1963. The civic culture: Political attitudes and democracy in five nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Barber, B.R. 1995. Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
- Bellah, R.N., R. Madsen, W.M. Sullivan, A. Swidler, and S.M. Tipton. 1996. Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Block, F. 1990. Postindustrial possibilities: A critique of economic discourse. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Cochrane, W. 1979. The development of American agriculture: A historical analysis. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J., and J. Rogers. 1992. Secondary associations and democratic governance. In Associations and democracy, ed. E.O. Wright, 393–472. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- DuPuis, E.M., D. Goodman, and J. Harrison. 2006. Just values or just value? Remaking the local in agro-food studies. In Between the local and the global: Confronting complexity in the contemporary agri-food sector, ed. T. Marsden, and J. Murdoch, 241–268. Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
- Friedland, W. 1994. The new globalization: The case of fresh produce. In From Columbus to Conagra: The globalization of agriculture and food, ed. A. Bonanno, et al., 210–231. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.Google Scholar
- GSS (General Social Survey). 2013. http://www3.norc.org/gss+website/.
- Goldschmidt, W. 1978. Large-scale farming and the rural social structure. Rural Sociology 43(3): 362–366.Google Scholar
- Goss, K., R. Rodefeld, and F. Buttel. 1980. The political economy of class structure in US agriculture. In The rural sociology of advanced societies, ed. F. Buttel, and H. Newby, 83–132. Montclair, NJ: Allanheld Osmum.Google Scholar
- Guthman, J. 2004b. Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. 1989. The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Heffernan, W. 1999. Consolidation in the food and agriculture system. Report to the National Farmers Union, 5 February 1999. http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/NFUFarmCrisis.htm. Accessed 24 Jan 2012.
- Jacques, S., and L. Collins. 2003. Community supported agriculture: An alternative to agribusiness. Geography Review 16(5): 30–33.Google Scholar
- Lobao, L. 1990. Locality and inequality. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Lyson, T.A. 2004. Civic agriculture: Reconnecting farm, food, and community. Medford, MA: Tufts University Press.Google Scholar
- Magdoff, F., J.B. Foster, and F.H. Buttel. 2000. Hungry for profit: The agribusiness threat to farmers, food, and the environment. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
- Martinez, S. 2007. The US food marketing system: Recent developments, 1997–2006. Economic Research Report No. (ERR42). United States Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
- NCOC (National Conference on Citizenship). 2006. America’s civic health index: Broken engagement. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Oldenburg, R. 1991. The great good place. New York: Paragon House.Google Scholar
- Pew Research. 2012. Assessing the representativeness of public opinion surveys. http://www.people-press.org/2012/05/15/assessing-the-representativeness-of-public-opinion-surveys/. Accessed 25 Jan 2012.
- Piore, M.J., and C.F. Sabel. 1984. The second industrial divide. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R.D. 2000. Bowling alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R.D. 1993. Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- The Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University. 2006. 2006 Social capital benchmark community survey. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/measurement/2006sccs.htm Accessed 25 Jan 2012.
- Sheets, J.A. 2011. Food—By the people, for the people: The study of the relationship between local food networks and civic engagement. Paper presented at the Joint Annual Meetings of Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, Association for the Study of Food and Society, and the Society for Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. June 2011, Missoula, MT.Google Scholar
- Skocpol, T. 2003. Diminished democracy: From membership to management in American civic life. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
- Tocqueville, A. 2003. Democracy in America. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
- Tolbert, C.M., T. Lyson, and M.D. Irwin. 1998. Local capitalism, civic engagement, and socioeconomic well-being. Social Forces 77(2): 401–427.Google Scholar
- USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). 2009. 2007 Census of agriculture. http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/usv1.pdf.
- US BLS (United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). 2013. Volunteering in the US 2012. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/volun.pdf.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). State & county quickfacts: New York State. http://quickfacts.census.gov. Accessed 22 Jan 2012
- Verba, S., and N.H. Nie. 1972. Participation in America: Political democracy and social equality. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., K. Lehman Schlozman, and H.E. Brady. 1995. Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar