Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Synopsis

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 Dreams delivers 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.

Excerpt

I completed most of the research for the first edition of Agrarian Dreams about fifteen years ago—sometime in 1998—and then began writing the dissertation that was to become this book. When it was finally published, in 2004, there were very few scholarly publications on organic agriculture and thus a good many assumptions to call into question. The public conversation on organics was just emerging. At the time, most people’s ideas about organic farming fell into one of two camps. They believed it to be either a weird fringe movement or the best possible alternative to conventionally produced food. Since then much has changed. Those who once saw organic as fringe are now less skeptical of the basic premise that farming ought to be done with no or fewer pesticides, although they may still harbor doubts that the organic label is more than a marketing ploy. They may even buy organic food from time to time, especially those with young children or with a lively farmers’ market nearby. Meanwhile, those who were once inclined to believe that organic agriculture was a substantial path to agrofood transformation have become more wary. They’ve seen organic food at large grocery stores side by side with conventional brands and are skeptical that it is a substantial alternative. Perhaps they’ve read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, which pop ularized the juxtaposition of “big organic” and “little organic,” and now seek an even more rarefied alternative, such as local food. Of those in this camp who are deeply immersed in food activism—a small but vocal, agenda-setting group—some have come to doubt that market . . .

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