Growing Food and Social Change: Rural Adaptation, Participatory Action Research and Civic Food Networks in North America
Anderson, Colin Ray
The goal of this research was to better understand how farm families adapt to global environmental and political-economic change to secure their livelihoods and to build more resilient food systems. The dissertation reports on five iterative cycles of participatory action research that resulted in a diversity of pragmatic, conceptual and theoretical outcomes. I first examined how farmers adapted to the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) crisis in the Canadian Prairies, identifying three general adaptation types: ‘exiting’ from beef production or agriculture; ‘enduring’ through adaptations that seek stability; and ‘innovating’ to pursue new opportunities, including direct farm marketing and cooperatives as important forms of grassroots adaptation. Next, I reported on a five-year action research project that developed a “civic food network” in rural Manitoba, which emerged in large part as a response to the BSE crisis. This case study examined the tensions, politics and opportunities that arise through the intensely socially embedded relationships that underpin these grassroots innovations. I argue that CFNs must productively engage with difference if they are to reach their full potential for rural development and social change. Next, I examine the barriers that confront the local food movement, especially as they relate to food safety regulations. A series of short articles and videos are presented that were used to buttress the political efforts of our participatory action research team to advocate for scale-appropriate regulations in Manitoba. Next, I examined my PhD research as a whole to illustrate how participatory action research transgresses “academic” and “non-academic” knowledge and space to mobilize knowledge in intentional processes of social transformation. Through this research, we developed three Knowledge Mobilization strategies. These include: Using transmedia to exchange knowledge via multiple platforms and mediums; “setting hooks” to draw together diverse knowledge communities; and layering to deliver knowledge at varying levels of detail and complexity. Finally, through a performative autoethnographic script, I deconstruct graduate education, the dissertation and the professionalizing discourses that impede a vibrant “public scholarship” in Universities. As a whole, this participatory action research simultaneously argues for and also embodies democratic approaches to research and to agriculture and food practice and policy.
rural studies, civic food networks
Anderson, C. R., & McLachlan, S. M. (2012). Exiting, enduring and innovating: Farm household adaptation to global zoonotic disease. Global Environmental Change, 22(1), 82-93. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.11.008