Volunteering for Vegetables: Community Agriculture and the Prospects for Building a More Democratic Food System
Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Other Degree Name/Area of Focus
Sustainable Food and Farming
Department or School/College
Laurie Yung, Daniel Kemmis
Food systems, food democracy, community agriculture, urban agriculture, civic skills, volunteers
University of Montana
Environmental Studies | Food Studies
Scholars and activists hold varied ideas about what a more just and equitable food system might look like. Food democracy, one of these alternative food system theories, centers around the idea that all people should have equal opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the shaping of their food systems. Community farms, due to their socially-oriented qualities, present one possibility for people to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to function as food citizens and build food democracy.
This research explores and seeks to inform food democracy theory through case studies of two urban community farms – one in Missoula, Montana, and one in San Francisco, California – and their respective volunteer programs that provide produce to volunteers. It also outlines the purpose, governance, and function of these farms, their volunteer programs, and their parent organizations. Case studies were built through in-depth interviews, and supplemented with participant observation and document review.
The volunteers’ experiences suggest that, for most of them, their engagement with their respective community farm has helped develop the knowledge and skills necessary in moving toward food democracy. Volunteers at both farms demonstrated knowledge of the food system, skills in food production, the ability to work and problem solve collectively, an orientation toward the commons and community good, and, for some, a sense of efficacy within the food system. Volunteers also described dimensions of broader democratic theory, like community building and citizenship skills, which allowed for the extension of existing food democracy framework. While volunteers’ experiences suggest they are participating in some level of food democracy, the depth of this participation varied among volunteers. As others have found in similar food justice and food sovereignty research, however, people living near the farm did not necessarily experience the same impacts.
Orton, Kali, "Volunteering for Vegetables: Community Agriculture and the Prospects for Building a More Democratic Food System" (2018). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11219.
© Copyright 2018 Kali Orton