Solidarity: a Key Element in Alternative Food Networks

Laura Carlson, Vera Bitsch


Alternative food networks (AFN) are self-organized groups of individuals and businesses that form new economic relationships intended to mitigate perceived problems in conventional food systems. These relationships are based on a set of principles and activities that contribute to a feeling of solidarity among participants. A grounded theory approach is used to examine the importance of solidarity in the operations of four AFN projects in the former East Germany. Data collection methods include document analysis and participant observation. Data were analyzed using the qualitative data analysis package Atlas-ti, and include photographs, printed materials, and field notes. Projects investigated include two community supported agriculture projects, one cooperative grocery, and one urban agriculture project. Results show that, although solidarity is explicitly mentioned by actors and official documents from each initiative, the concept is conceived of and implemented differently. Interactions between characteristics of the individuals who create and live out the rules that govern these new relationships, local social, environmental and economic history and current conditions and outside institutions result in complex, evolving socio-ecological systems that ripple out to related sets of actors.


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ISSN 2194-511X


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