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Black, White, and Green

Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy

Alison Hope Alkon

Publication Year: 2012

Farmers markets are much more than places to buy produce. According to advocates for sustainable food systems, they are also places to “vote with your fork” for environmental protection, vibrant communities, and strong local economies. Farmers markets have become essential to the movement for food-system reform and are a shining example of a growing green economy where consumers can shop their way to social change.

Black, White, and Green brings new energy to this topic by exploring dimensions of race and class as they relate to farmers markets and the green economy. With a focus on two Bay Area markets—one in the primarily white neighborhood of North Berkeley, and the other in largely black West Oakland—Alison Hope Alkon investigates the possibilities for social and environmental change embodied by farmers markets and the green economy.

Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Alkon describes the meanings that farmers market managers, vendors, and consumers attribute to the buying and selling of local organic food, and the ways that those meanings are raced and classed. She mobilizes this research to understand how the green economy fosters visions of social change that are compatible with economic growth while marginalizing those that are not.

Black, White, and Green is one of the first books to carefully theorize the green economy, to examine the racial dynamics of food politics, and to approach issues of food access from an environmental-justice perspective. In a practical sense, Alkon offers an empathetic critique of a newly popular strategy for social change, highlighting both its strengths and limitations.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xiv

This book has been almost a decade in the making. In 2005, I moved to Oakland to try to better understand how and to what end low-income communities of color were making use of local food systems. There, I met a group of people working to connect...

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1. Going Green, Growing Green

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pp. 1-15

It’s Thursday afternoon, and the sun is shining. Customers stream into the North Berkeley Farmers Market from all directions.1 Some lock their bicycles to parking meters behind the vendors’ tents while others come on foot or have parked nearby. Patrons stroll from one artfully...

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2. Understanding the Green Economy

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pp. 16-34

In the past forty years, the environmental movement has shifted from emphasizing the ecological limits on economic growth to embracing green growth as a pathway to social change...

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3. The Taste of Place

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pp. 35-61

On April 13, 1969, a group of student and community activists met at a collective house half a block from Berkeley’s campus and proposed to create a “user developed community park” (Copeland 1969). Six days later, Stew Albert, who along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin...

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4. Creating Just Sustainability

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pp. 62-93

In the spring of 2006, the North Berkeley Farmers Market hosted a series of special events called “Shopping with the Chef.” During these tours, chefs shared their thoughts on the day’s produce and offered simple recipes and preparations. The series’ inaugural event...

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5. Who Participates in the Green Economy?

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pp. 94-122

To spend an afternoon at the West Oakland Farmers Market is to be surrounded by hugs, handshakes, and other expressions of familiarity. Many vendors and customers know each other by name and exchange familiar greetings. David Roach, the market founder, stresses the importance...

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6. Greening Growth

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pp. 123-142

The Ecology Center, which manages the North Berkeley Farmers Market, is a nonprofit organization seeking to facilitate urban lifestyles that contribute to ecological sustainability, social equity...

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7. Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy

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pp. 143-154

Over the next ten years the green economy is going to change virtually every major aspect of our lives for the better. . . . It’s clear from our inability to pass climate legislation that we’re not going green because it’s the right thing to do. We’re going green because it’s simply the smart thing to do...

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Epilogue. Reading, Writing, Relationship

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pp. 155-172

I entered the field on a sunny spring Saturday morning. I biked to the local train station and boarded a southbound train. The train headed underground as we approached the downtown Oakland business district and then emerged again to make one final stop before it crossed the bay to San Francisco...


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pp. 173-178


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pp. 179-198


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pp. 199-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344751
E-ISBN-10: 0820344753
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820343891
Print-ISBN-10: 0820343897

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos, 3 tables, and 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 820009866
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Black, White, and Green

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Farmers markets -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Sustainable agriculture -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Alternative agriculture -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • African American farmers -- United States.
  • Food supply -- Social aspects -- United States
  • Community development -- United States.
  • Minorities -- United States -- Economic conditions.
  • Social justice -- United States.
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