Comparing Apples and Coconuts
Food Regimes and (Farmers) Markets in Brooklyn, USA, and Suva, Fiji
Until the advent and spread of supermarkets, the markets that we now call farmers, public, open-air, or traditional markets needed no adjectives. They were simply markets. Currently, the bodies of research about traditional markets common in the Global South and about farmers markets resurging in the Global North tend to be separate. However, viewed through the lens of food regime frameworks, together these markets come more clearly into focus as globally local alternatives to a corporate regime of supermarkets. As microcases within this macrosociological framework, this paper examines two urban markets—one traditional daily market in Suva, Fiji, and one seasonal Saturday farmers market in East New York, Brooklyn, in the United States. We analyze interviews and surveys with vendors and market-related documents. As we illustrate with brief case descriptions, other than both being urban, the individual markets and their contexts could hardly be more different. One market was formalized early in the colonial food regime, and the other was founded more recently as an alternative to the current neoliberal corporate regime. However, vendors in both reported that selling at the market generates income, autonomy, respect, and social connectedness for them. These commonalities suggest that examining lessons from such markets across communities globally, South or North, traditional or farmers, may offer new insights into how to sustain and expand such markets even in the face of supermarket domination. In addition, doing so with a food regime lens may make that work more useful for informing how to support traditional and farmers market development in ways that help keep aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of their work, as real alternatives to neoliberal frameworks.
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