Masters Thesis

The alternative food movement in Humboldt County, CA: social bonds and divisions

In light of the corporate-ruled, globally-scaled food system that dominates much of the world’s food production, distribution, and consumption practices today, the Alternative Food Movement has gained popularity across the nation as a purveyor of small-scale, local food systems with a focus on environmental sustainability and human rights to healthy food. As the movement continues to develop, concerns by activists, scholars, and community members are being voiced about the social divisions in movement participation. This thesis explores the social bonds and divisions in the alternative food movement within Humboldt County, California. Via interview research with individuals working within the alternative food system, questions are addressed regarding how workers understand and define their work, how the movement creates opportunities for community involvement, and how they address barriers to participation. Findings reveal that the alternative food movement is a source of both social bond and social division, primarily across economic and cultural/racial lines. A strategic method of inclusive and equitable communication between leaders, decision-makers, and community members is identified as a potential solution to create a more inclusive and adaptable movement.