The spaces for farmers in the city: A case study comparison of Direct Selling Alternative Food Networks in Toronto, Canada and Belo Horizonte, Brazil
The current focus of Alternative Food Network (AFN) literature in the global North overlooks the reality of Southern AFNs and the potential contributions from studying Southern case studies. In this research, we used interviews and observation to determine how the differing valuations of ‘local’ food and farmers in two case study locations, one in the global North (Toronto, Canada) and one in the global South (Belo Horizonte, Brazil), affected the physical, economic, and political spaces in the city for farmers participating in the AFNs. The geographical concepts of scale, space and place are central to understanding Alternative Food Networks (AFNs). Drawing on work by Cook and Crang (1996) on ‘geographical knowledges’, we examined how farmers and consumers reinforced and constructed different narratives of ‘local’ food, which was valued by affluent consumers in Toronto but not by affluent consumers in Belo Horizonte. In Toronto, farmers operated in physical spaces that put them in contact with affluent consumers, and they were able to take advantage of both at market and off market economic spaces. In Belo Horizonte, farmers were relegated to marginal physical spaces, and had limited economic and political power. There were broader social justice implications related to whether the AFN operated mainly within affluent or marginal spaces. These case studies demonstrate that the scale, space and place are actively constructed, and certain constructions privilege some actors over others in the AFN and within the city.