Diverse forms of market engagement: Grounding food sovereignty in the experiences of Ontario's ecological grain farmers
MetadataShow full item record
In contrast to food movements’ enthusiasm towards localized fruit, vegetable, dairy, and meat production, grains are often the missing link in the local food equation. As grains begin to find a place in local food movements, producers and processors exhibit the environmental and socioeconomic value in growing grains ecologically. However, challenges exist in furthering ecological farming practices; one of these challenges is marketing. With its emphasis on sustainability, the ‘local’, and the rights of producers, food sovereignty serves in this research as a lens to examine the challenges and opportunities that Ontario’s ecological grain farmers experience when bringing their products to market. As food sovereignty is a relatively young movement it is important to remain critical of it in order to understand how it may best continue forward as a means of challenging dominant agri-food systems. As a complementary framework, the concept of diverse economies is also explored in this research. This concept recognizes the role played both by the capitalist and non-capitalist forms of market engagement within enterprises and communities. This recognition can serve as a way to empower producers and processors engaged in alternative forms of market relationships. This thesis explores the marketing challenges ecological grain farmers encounter with respect to regulatory regimes; questions of scale; access to infrastructure and resources; market trends; human resources; and production. Through the use of semi-structured interviews and the social constructivist research, the findings demonstrate that although many food sovereignty principles resonate with the needs and actions of the research participants, there is a lack of consensus amongst Ontario’s ecological grain farmers regarding marketing practices and the principles promoted by the food sovereignty movement. Despite the stakeholders’ innovative techniques for overcoming these challenges, many of the barriers are structural and require engagement from the public sector. This research provides novel insight into the localization and globalization of grain chains in Ontario, the ability of food sovereignty to promote a sustainable livelihood for ecological grain farmers, and the potential contributions of a diverse economies framework in food studies. In addition, this research consolidates the lived experiences of ecological grain farmers in Ontario, as a means benefiting participants by exhibiting best practices and common challenges amongst counterparts.