Challenges to re-embedding food systems : tracing the decline and revival of a farmers’ market on the edge Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cv43nz816

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  • A number of researchers view farmers’ markets as an appropriate vehicle for re-embedding food markets into communities (O’Hara & Stagl, 2001, Feenstra, 2002, Lyson, 2005). Amidst astounding growth in the number of farmers’ markets in the United States in recent decades, many markets struggle and fail. Recent research suggests that farmers’ markets, especially new markets, have high failure rates. This thesis seeks to understand farmers’ market failure by examining a well-established market in distress. Because the market had not yet reached the point of failure and efforts at revitalization were underway, it provided a unique research setting. Based on multiple sources of data, including ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and an analysis of the market’s current and historical records, this research presents a holistic accounting of the specific interactions and processes that have taken place with this farmers’ market since its early days. The market experienced a decline in both customer and vendor numbers, as well as in its overall scale. A number of factors contributed to the market’s problems, including management issues, difficulty recruiting and aligning vendors and customers, and community level influences such as a declining downtown business sector and inadequate city support for the market. These factors created a vulnerable market, and environmental issues in 2005 moved it into crisis. The market’s efforts at revitalization are documented, revealing the challenges smaller markets with few resources face. Data collection was essential in both understanding and monitoring this market. Community embeddedness emerged as crucial to sustaining and reviving this farmers’ market, which lacked it for a variety of reasons relating to regional, community-level, and internal issues. Recommendations relate to finding a consistent site manager from the community who can work on educating the community and building collaborations with private and public organizations.
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