New Ways of Working and Organization: Alternative Agrifood Movements and Agrifood Researchers


  • William H. Friedland

    1. Department of Community Studies
      University of California, Santa Cruz
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    • Part of this article was presented at a miniconference on “Resistance and Agency in Contemporary Agriculture and Food” at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society in Austin, TX. The article was originally presented at a miniconference on “Agrifoodies for Action Research” at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society in Santa Clara, CA. I am deeply appreciative of colleagues who participated in discussions including Patricia Allen, Sandro Bonanno, Gianluca Brunori, Michael Burawoy, David Burch, Larry Busch, Doug Constance, Laura DeLind, Harriet Friedmann, Sarita Gaytan, Donna Haraway, Ray Jussaume, Valerie Kuletz, Geoff Lawrence, Dustin Mulvaney, Elizabeth Ransom, Carolyn Sachs, Peter Sinclair, Masashi Tachikawa, Keiko Tanaka, Steven Wolf, and Wynne Wright. Comments from four anonymous reviewers are also acknowledged and appreciated.


The remarkable growth of alternative agrifood movements—organics, fair trade, localism, Slow Food, farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, food security, food safety, food sovereignty, anti–genetically modified organisms, animal welfare, and others—and their attraction to younger academic scholars offer a unique opportunity to explore ways to strengthen such movements utilizing the structural position and distinctive skills of academic researchers. The various movements constitute the major resource; sympathetic academic researchers are a second resource. Mobilizing these two resources in a new organization, the Alternative Agrifood Researchers without Borders, has the potential to contribute to strengthening the movements and their original progressive orientations and advancing civil society. To be effective, a new organization should parallel existing structures in state and market but focus on progressive goals aimed at reducing inequalities and expanding political and social participation. In building a body of literature usable for comparative analysis, the goal should be more effective alternative agrifood movements providing better services to broader global constituencies while simultaneously improving academic research quality. I draw on three social theories—resource mobilization, strategic intervention, and structural parallelism—to encourage careful revision of established academic paradigms.