Co-creating an alternative: the moral economy of participating in farmers’ markets

Chelsea Leiper, Afton Clarke-Sather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Growing dissatisfaction with the globalised food system, articulated on the behalf of both producers and consumers, has caused a variety of public debates surrounding the ethics of food production and consumption to become increasingly visible in society over the last two decades. Simultaneously, farmers’ markets (FMs) and other forms of direct marketing have experienced a noteworthy increase in participants, indicating an emerging demand for an alternative to conventional food networks, alternatives that are often perceived as providing a more just and moral relationship to food production and consumption. This study examines consumer and producer motivations for participation in FMs and opinions towards conventional and alternative agriculture in order to elucidate what (if any) values and morals are shared among producers and consumers. This study draws upon the theoretical framework of moral economy to understand whether these shared values suggest FM participants are working to co-create an alternative economy based on “moral” principles such as fairness, justice, and reciprocity. This mixed-methods study consists of consumer surveys (N = 377) and semi-structured interviews with producers (N = 17) from five FMs in the state of Delaware. The results suggest that producer and consumer motivations to participate in FMs, particularly a shared emphasis on social value, are indicative of a sense of moral economy. However, this moral economy is complicated by tension towards consumers and the alternative food movement more generally expressed on behalf of producers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-858
Number of pages19
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017


  • Farmers’ markets
  • alternative agriculture
  • alternative food networks
  • consumer–producer relations
  • localism
  • moral economy


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