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Exploring emergent practices in Alternative Food Networks: Voedselteams in Belgium

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Current sustainability challenges in agro-food networks highlight the need for sustainability transitions in agro-food practices. This paper aims to contribute by analysing how emergent agro-food practices form and develop over time. Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) provide a locus to study how emergent agro-food practices are shaped and to understand the factors that influence how they develop over time. We take a social practices approach to study Voedselteams — a network of food buying groups in Belgium. We go beyond studying single practices, by analysing AFNs as consisting of bundles of practices. We use a mix of methods (desk-top study, structured and semi-structured interviews, participant observation and workshops). Our results show that becoming involved in an AFN may also mean getting involved in other ‘alternative’ practices. As such, engaging in an AFN may require more effort than gaining access to or provisioning food through more strongly routinised practices. Our results suggest that whether, and the extent to which, participants get involved in emergent practice-bundles depends on an interplay between their motivations and the ways in which the emergent practice-bundles are embedded in existing bundles of practices. The routinisation and professionalisation of alternative practices – more in line with existing practice bundles - may facilitate the participation of members willing to invest less time and effort in gaining access to food through an AFN. This suggests that the routinisation and alignment with the bundles of practices that shape daily lives are crucial for emergent practices to appeal to a wider public.
Journal: Journal of Rural Studies
ISSN: 0743-0167
Volume: 80
Pages: 586 - 594
Number of pages: 9
Publication year:2020