Linking Local Food Systems and the Social Economy? Future Roles for Farmers' Markets in Alberta and British Columbia


  • We would like to thank Emily Huddart Kennedy, Melisa Zapisocky, Paul Cabaj, and Herb Barbolet for research assistance and Al Cook, Gerardo Otero, Sean Connelly, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Funding for this research was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnership (CSERP).


Often organized as grassroots, nonprofit organizations, many farmers' markets serve as strategic venues linking producers and consumers of local food while fulfilling multiple social, economic, and environmental objectives. This article examines the potential of farmers' markets to play a catalyst role in linking local food systems to the social economy in western Canada. We used the Delphi method of inquiry to solicit and synthesize perspectives on the future role of farmers' markets within local food systems and the social economy from farmers' market vendors, market managers, and policy and government representatives in each province. We found that negotiations over the definition of local food systems, the dynamics of supply and demand relationships, and perceptions of “authenticity” affect the positionality of farmers' markets in relation to other marketing channels within regional food systems. Stakeholders engaged in this Delphi inquiry strategized ways to scale up local food systems beyond current limits while also maintaining the “authentic experience” offered by farmers' markets that has helped to fuel increased consumer interest, demand, and growth. Results confirm the need for further investigation of the relationship between the social economy, infrastructure, and authenticity in the development of local food systems.