Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Michael Chibnik

First Committee Member

Margaret Beck

Second Committee Member

Scott Schnell

Third Committee Member

James Throgmorton

Fourth Committee Member

James L. Watson


In recent years, the production and marketing of local food has become the fastest growing segment of the natural food industry and an important part of the sustainable agriculture movement. The heightened attention to local food systems has bolstered farmers markets attendance, Community Supported Agriculture memberships, and Farm to School programs. The movement has gained such popular salience that in 2007, "locavore" (defined as a person who seeks out locally grown foods) was Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year. Many scholars have also recognized that local food systems may provide positive economic effects (Swenson 2009) and have the potential to build community relationships (Kloppenburg 2000; Lyson 2004).

This thesis is based on ethnographic research among local food producers in Iowa that was conducted between June of 2008 and August of 2011. Here I examine the daily practice of producing and marketing local food and consider the challenges producers face in their attempts to develop economically viable farms. Emphasis is placed on the relationships between small-scale direct market producers and their larger-scaled conventional neighbors, the implications for rural labor associated with alternative agriculture and small-scale processing, and the strategies producers use to meet the demands of diverse market outlets such as farmers markets or institutions. I argue that, while producers differentiate their farms from the conventional, industrial system, they are embedded within it. Local food producers must contend with the same land shortages and federal policies as conventional producers and in some cases they make use of the equipment and expertise of their conventional neighbors.


Alternative Agriculture, Direct Market Agriculture, Ethnography, Local Food, Rural U.S.


x, 297 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 275-297).


Copyright 2014 Brandi Janssen

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