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Keywords:

  • California;
  • dairy farming;
  • food quality;
  • land preservation

ABSTRACT. Farmers in Marin and Sonoma Counties, located north of San Francisco, are experimenting with numerous alternatives to California's widely known industrial dairy style. Many analysts suggest that consumer politics, food scares, and globalization explain such shifts to organic and other types of “quality” food production. While acknowledging the importance of these factors, we argue that the alternatives in this region are best understood as an outcome of broad-based land-conservation efforts developed through historical and ongoing struggles over urban growth, rising concerns about environmental values, and deep regional interests in dairy preservation. Over time, preservation of this agricultural landscape has contributed to the emergence of a quality food industry historically rooted in the region's politics of place.