Center for Fair & Alternative Trade

Colorado State University

“La misma realidad de cada lugar es diferente” (“The same reality of each place is different”): Case study of an organic farmers’ market in Lima, Peru by Kevin Cody

Presented by Kevin Cody – PhD candidate, University of California, Santa Cruz

On Thursday, October 30th, 2014, Kevin Cody (PhD candidate, University of California, Santa Cruz) presented his research on “La misma realidad de cada lugar es diferente” (“The same reality of each place is different”): Case study of an organic farmers’ market in Lima, Peru.

Cody’s research draws upon Northern-based scholarship on alternative food networks (AFN) to examine aspects of a similar empirical context in Peru: the domestic market for organic produce. He presented his case study on a popular organic farmers’ market (FM) (or Bioferia) modeled after a type of FM found in the global North that caters to affluent, health-motivated, environmentally-minded consumers. Building upon emergent scholarship that has provided initial insights into the potential for AFN in the North and South to support sustainable food systems that encompass diverse economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. Cody was keen to stress that previous discourse was based from a global North context, where conceptualization from global South research sites had remained fairly limited.

In presenting his exploratory examination of an emblematic instance of AFN in Peru, Cody showed that the Bioferia has created novel economic opportunities for ecologically-minded entrepreneurs and organic farmers in rural communities far from the point of sale. Although constrained by a relatively small class of affluent and conscientious consumers, the domestic market for organics in Peru has the potential to improve rural livelihoods by ascribing economic value to already existing organic farming practices, while at the same time inspiring critical reflection among organizers and advocates about the limitations of market-based agrarian change.

Findings from this research illustrate numerous points of convergence between alternative ago-food scholarship in the US and the organic FM in Peru. These relate to the neoliberal tendencies of market-oriented, consumer-driven initiatives to support broader social and environmental values of the burgeoning organic sector in Peru. However, organic NGOs and producers in this study recognize the limitations of market-based agrarian change by acknowledging a lack of consumer demand and challenges around the institutional sustainability of NGOs and producer co-operatives. These challenges are linked to deeper structural issues that are not necessarily being addressed by promoting organic farmers’ markets. And yet this particular Bioferia, it is argued, has raised the profile of a domestic market for organic produce in Peru while also supporting rural communities of already existing organic farmers.

In conclusion, Cody noted that expanding the geographic frame of reference of alternative food systems allows for a more nuanced understanding of their origins, salience, and potential success. He argued that while market forces will continue to shape, and possibly undermine broader movement values in Peru, development sector interventions, combined with individuals committed to a set of “organic values” create new forms of embeddedness that justify the theoretical and practical exchange of ideas and experiences.