Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Agrarian Dreams

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Julie Guthman
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 2
Pages: 323
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Agrarian Dreams
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking study of organic farming, Julie Guthman challenges accepted wisdom about organic food and agriculture in the Golden State. Many continue to believe that small-scale organic farming is the answer to our environmental and health problems, but Guthman refutes popular portrayals that pit "small organic" against "big organic" and offers an alternative analysis that underscores the limits of an organic label as a pathway to transforming agriculture.This second edition includes a thorough investigation of the federal organic program, a discussion of how the certification arena has continued to grow and change since its implementation, and an up-to-date guide to the structure of the organic farming sector.Agrarian Dreamsdelivers an indispensable examination of organic farming in California and will appeal to readers in a variety of areas, including food studies, agriculture, environmental studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, and history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95913-2
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Julie Guthman
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. CHAPTER 1 Agrarian Dreams
    (pp. 1-22)

    The turn-of-the-millennium years have been nothing less than extraordinary in exposing the public health, environmental, and moral risks of industrialized agriculture. Each new round of news stories, whether about genetically engineered foods, mad cow disease, hoof-and-mouth disease, E. coli contamination, or pesticide poisoning, reinforces the idea that our system for growing and processing food has run amok. The surprising popularity of books such as Eric Schlosser’sFast Food Nation, Michael Pollan’sBotany of Desire, and Marion Nestle’sFood Politics, in addition to a wealth of titles focused on individual food commodities, speaks to heightened public interest in the production and...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Finding the Way: Roads to Organic Production
    (pp. 23-41)

    A generation of growers entered into organic production because of deeply held political, environmental, philosophical, and/or spiritual values. Many came out of the counterculture or were influenced by environmental ideas in their college years and decided to try their luck at farming. Some followed the writings of the philosophical or practical giants in sustainable agriculture (e.g., Wes Jackson and Robert Rodale, respectively) and deliberately made the effort to put these written ideas into practice. Others were less circumspect and simply felt that organic agriculture was somehow “the right thing to do.” Whether they “always have been and always will be”...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Organic Farming: Ideal Practices and Practical Ideals
    (pp. 42-60)

    Between 1987 and 1997, the beginning year of this study, approximately seventeen hundred California growers entered into organic production for the first time, and the amount of acreage in organic production grewmore than tenfold. Many entered not because of any particular ties to the organic movement but because they felt compelled to change the way they farm or were lured by high prices and the promises of buyers. Whether they approached opportunistically or were pulled along, this sort of growth was unimaginable ten years prior. On the surface, then, it would appear an astounding success on the part of the...

  11. CHAPTER 4 California Dreaming: California’s Agro-Industrial Legacy
    (pp. 61-88)

    Michael Pollan’s 2001 exposé of the organic-industrial complex in theNew York Times Magazinehas generated increased awareness of what some are now calling the corporate takeover of the organic food system.¹ As chapter 3 showed, the sizable presence of agribusiness-like firms in the organic sector has transformed the structure of the sector. Their entry has also shaped the way organic agriculture is practiced, for conventional agriculturists’ habits die hard. Yet, this transformation was not the doing of conventional agribusiness per se. Nor is it the case that agribusiness entry was intended to subvert the organic sector. Instead, the pioneers...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Organic Sediment: A Geography of Organic Production
    (pp. 89-109)

    The development of California agriculture has been punctuated by crises, out of which new strategies have emerged to resolve the contradictions in profit making that led to these crises in the first place (Lee 2000). As with all economic restructuring, most of these innovations have reconfigured existing production relations, creating new ways to extract, appropriate, or add value among classes of people and, in the case of intensification, between people and nature as well. Yet, as geographer David Harvey has insisted (e.g., Harvey 1982), economic restructuring is also fundamentally spatial. Particularly since agriculture is land-based production, restructuring not only responds...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Conventionalizing Organic: From Social Movement to Industry via Regulation
    (pp. 110-140)

    The emergence of an identifiable organic movement in the late 1960s did not pose a major threat to mainstream agriculture. Thoroughly awash in countercultural idioms, organic farming was, if anything, an object of derision of the mainstream agricultural establishment. As former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz said in 1971, “We can go back to organic agriculture in this country if we must; we know how to do it. However, before we move in that direction, someone must decide which 50 million of our people will starve!” (Nation’s Agriculture1971). Not until the farm crisis of the 1980s articulated with...

  14. CHAPTER 7 Organic Regulation Ramified
    (pp. 141-171)

    Arguably, the development of organic regulatory institutions and conventions was a haphazard process. The organic sector was simply ingenuous in its beginnings, but its ongoing expansion and change brought unforeseen challenges to making an agreed-upon meaning hold. A seemingly simple definition of organically grown turned out to need constant tinkering; a casual organizational style had to be professionalized and given procedural legitimacy, ultimately creating fairly baroque modes of Yet, no matter how new rules and procedures were normatively framed, the underlying concern was self-protection for already-existing producers. Accordingly, standards became stronger yet inconsistent, and practices of enforcement became more surveillant...

  15. CHAPTER 8 California Organics, Fifteen Years On
    (pp. 172-206)

    If anything has changed since I first researched this book, it is the enhanced legitimacy that organic farming has come to enjoy among policy makers, consumers, and the food industry itself—a process often referred to as mainstreaming. Tom Vilsack’s comment is a far cry from that of a previous holder of that same post, Earl Butz, who characterized a “return” to organic agriculture as a recipe for widespread starvation. No longer in opposition, these days organic agriculture is integrated into policy and represented by policy bodies. One clear piece of evidence for this was the appointment of Mark Lipson,...

  16. CHAPTER 9 The Agrarian Answer?
    (pp. 207-226)

    The federal rule for organic production generated a palpable sense of loss in the organic farming movement. Undoubtedly, many of organic farming’s most solid devotees share the view of Joan Dye Gussow, whose editorial appeared inOrganic Gardeningwhen the final rule was being implemented. As evidenced in the written comments to the first proposed federal rule, in 1997, die-hard organic consumers had the most demanding expectations of what organic should mean vis-à-vis industrial farming (Vos 2000). But many organic farmers were disappointed too, as was patently evident at the 2001 Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar, California. There a plenary...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 227-238)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 239-260)
  19. Glossary
    (pp. 261-262)
  20. References
    (pp. 263-280)
  21. Index
    (pp. 281-306)