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Communication at farmers’ markets: commodifying relationships, community and morality

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Garner, Benjamin (main author)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
USA: SAGE Journals
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
commodities, communication, communication process, communities, consumers, interpersonal communication, interviews, politics, sustainability, trends, organic food, observation, activism, ethics, farmers market, food supply, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), relationships, ethical consumption, capitalism, niche, local food movement
13 pages., Via online journal, Consumers are increasingly using their purchasing power to enact their politics and activism. I examine how consumption at farmers’ markets fits into this trend. The consumption of local and organic food and the number of farmers’ markets have drastically increased in recent years. This research examines the ways interpersonal relationships, community ties and morality (ethical consumption) relate to commodification at local farmers’ markets. Specifically, this research is framed through Marx’s understanding and critique of capitalism, including his concept of commodity fetishism. Using Radin’s (1996) indicia of commodification, I explore the degree to which relationships, community and morality either are commodifiable or resist commodification. Using a combination of extant literature as well as interview and observational data from a 2011–2012 market study, I discovered that relationships and community ties resist commodification but morality is commodifiable in this space. Specifically, I argue that the contingent and voluntary nature of human communication as a two-way process is one of the key reasons that interpersonal relationships and community ties resist commodification.