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Black, White, and Green

Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Black, White, and Green
    Book Description:

    Farmers markets are much more than places to buy produce. According to advocates for sustainable food systems, they are also places to "vote with your fork" for environmental protection, vibrant communities, and strong local economies. Farmers markets have become essential to the movement for food-system reform and are a shining example of a growing green economy where consumers can shop their way to social change. Black, White, and Green brings new energy to this topic by exploring dimensions of race and class as they relate to farmers markets and the green economy. With a focus on two Bay Area markets-one in the primarily white neighborhood of North Berkeley, and the other in largely black West Oakland-Alison Hope Alkon investigates the possibilities for social and environmental change embodied by farmers markets and the green economy. Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Alkon describes the meanings that farmers market managers, vendors, and consumers attribute to the buying and selling of local organic food, and the ways that those meanings are raced and classed. She mobilizes this research to understand how the green economy fosters visions of social change that are compatible with economic growth while marginalizing those that are not. Black, White, and Green is one of the first books to carefully theorize the green economy, to examine the racial dynamics of food politics, and to approach issues of food access from an environmental-justice perspective. In a practical sense, Alkon offers an empathetic critique of a newly popular strategy for social change, highlighting both its strengths and limitations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4475-1
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Going Green, Growing Green
    (pp. 1-15)

    It’s Thursday afternoon, and the sun is shining. Customers stream into the North Berkeley Farmers Market from all directions.¹ Some lock their bicycles to parking meters behind the vendors’ tents while others come on foot or have parked nearby. Patrons stroll from one artfully decorated booth to the next, sampling peaches in the summertime and apples in the fall. Approximately fifteen canopy-covered stalls fill a blocked-off city street, facing inward toward a grassy, tree-lined median. Beneath the farmers’ tents lies a cornucopia of fresh food. The winter crops are mostly green — spinach, lettuce, cabbage, chard, and kale — though...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Understanding the Green Economy
    (pp. 16-34)

    In the past forty years, the environmental movement has shifted from emphasizing the ecological limits on economic growth to embracing green growth as a pathway to social change. Green entrepreneurship is promoted as a promising career path for environmentally minded individuals, and the number of green mba programs is growing rapidly. Leading green entrepreneurs like Paul Hawken argue that economic growth is not inherently harmful to the environment and that ecological problems can present economic opportunities. Hawken’s philosophy of natural capitalism asserts that when businesses value natural resources and human ingenuity, they become more efficient and hence more profitable (Hawken,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Taste of Place
    (pp. 35-61)

    On April 13, 1969, a group of student and community activists met at a collective house half a block from Berkeley’s campus and proposed to create a “user developed community park” (Copeland 1969). Six days later, Stew Albert, who along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had founded the Yippies (Youth International Party), put out a call in the local Berkeley Barb for “one and all to bring building materials to the lot so they could build a community park” (Brenneman 2004). The next morning, between one hundred and two hundred volunteers arrived and removed the asphalt (ibid). Over the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Creating Just Sustainability
    (pp. 62-93)

    In the spring of 2006, the North Berkeley Farmers Market hosted a series of special events called “Shopping with the Chef.” During these tours, chefs shared their thoughts on the day’s produce and offered simple recipes and preparations. The series’ inaugural event featured Jessica Prentice, a locally renowned chef, activist, and food writer and one of the originators of the term locavore. Prentice had recently released a book, Full Moon Feast (2006), which combines commentary and recipes for each of the thirteen lunar cycles of what she calls the agrarian calendar.

    Jessica began the event by discussing her book and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Who Participates in the Green Economy?
    (pp. 94-122)

    To spend an afternoon at the West Oakland Farmers Market is to be surrounded by hugs, handshakes, and other expressions of familiarity. Many vendors and customers know each other by name and exchange familiar greetings. David Roach, the market founder, stresses the importance of this face-to-face interaction as a key purpose of the farmers market: “People come there to talk. They might buy just a little food, but they know each other. They sit there, listen to the music, and they’ll talk for a long time. [They’ll see] somebody else who they haven’t seen in a long time.” Examples of...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Greening Growth
    (pp. 123-142)

    The Ecology Center, which manages the North Berkeley Farmers Market, is a nonprofit organization seeking to facilitate urban lifestyles that contribute to ecological sustainability, social equity, and economic development. In a letter to its members, director Martin Bourque described the relationship between the farmers market and these goals. “The Ecology Center measures our success on the success of the small family farmers who grow our fresh fruits and vegetables all year long,” he said. By shopping “at the Berkeley Farmers Markets, you’re safeguarding a way of life while feeding yourself: protecting family farms and rich topsoil.” Bourque depicts buying from...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy
    (pp. 143-154)

    Farmers markets like those in North Berkeley and West Oakland represent the larger green economy because they advocate the buying and selling of local organic food as essential to social change. This social change includes environmental goals like healthy soil, biodiversity, and decreased use of fossil fuel and fertilizer. In addition, the green economy is often lauded as a creator of jobs. Farmers markets provide opportunities for small farmers and other small businesspeople to earn their livelihoods through direct sales. Small farmers would otherwise be unable to compete with an industrial agriculture that uses economies of scale and federal subsidies...

  12. EPILOGUE. Reading, Writing, Relationship
    (pp. 155-172)

    I entered the field on a sunny spring Saturday morning. I biked to the local train station and boarded a southbound train. The train headed underground as we approached the downtown Oakland business district and then emerged again to make one final stop before it crossed the bay to San Francisco. I climbed off the train and looked over the railing before descending the steps. I could see the easy-ups common to outdoor farmers markets. A few dozen people milled around the various booths. Across the busy street sat a brightly colored, newly constructed, multistory building. The design was identical...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 173-178)
    (pp. 179-198)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 199-206)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)