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E&S Home > Vol. 15, Iss. 3 > Art. 29 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Enhancing Adaptive Capacity in Food Systems: Learning at Farmers' Markets in Sweden

Rebecka Milestad, Department of Urban and Rural Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Division of Environmental Strategies Research, Royal Institute of Technology
Lotten Westberg, Department of Urban and Rural Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Ulrika Geber, County Administrative Board of Stockholm
Johanna Björklund, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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Abstract

This article examines how local food systems in the form of farmers' markets can enhance adaptive capacity and build social-ecological resilience. It does this by exploring the learning potential among farmers and customers. Learning can enable actors to adapt successfully and thus build adaptive capacity. Three forms of learning are investigated: instrumental, communicative, and emancipatory. These forms of learning constitute the foundation for lasting changes of behaviors. Local food systems are characterized by close links and opportunities for face-to-face interactions between consumers and producers of food, and are also institutions where farmers and customers can express and act upon their ethical values concerning food. However, local food systems are still a marginal phenomenon and cannot be accessed by all consumers. Interviews were held with customers and farmers, and the interactions between farmers and customers were observed at two farmers' markets in Sweden. Customers and farmers were found to learn and adapt to each other due to the opportunities offered by the farmers' markets. We found that farmers and customers learned in the instrumental and communicative domains, but could not confirm emancipatory learning. We concluded that the feedback between customers and farmers offers the potential for learning, which in turn contributes to adaptive capacity. This can be a driving force for building resilience in the food system.

Key words

adaptive capacity; learning; local food systems; farmers' markets; short food chains; social-ecological resilience
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087