Alternative food networks and value creation : the case of farmers markets in New Zealand : a 152.800 thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Business Studies at Massey University
As the global population transitions into a high-energy consumption lifestyle, natural resources are diminishing and pressures on food production systems are intensifying. A growing population and changes in consumption behaviour have seen the emergence of a food economy characterised by large-scale industrial production systems often considered to be environmentally unsustainable, socially unjust, and even exploitative. In addition, these conventional food systems are largely dependent on access to cheap and abundant sources of energy. However, it has become widely accepted that such sources of energy cannot be guaranteed long-term. Therefore, it has been of particular interest among scholars and wider society to explore alternative systems of food provisioning.
As part of an alternative food network, farmers markets have been characterised as an outlet for small-scale food producers to re-capture some of the value that is often lost through conventional food systems. Their growing popularity on a global scale shows that significant value opportunities exist as a result of participation. However, while there has been some research on farmers markets within New Zealand, very little has considered value processes within the social phenomena. Described as a shift towards sustainable development, farmers markets provide a useful site for research into understanding sustainable food system opportunities. This research explores an agricultural sector for which little research exists in New Zealand by seeking to investigate value creation within a sample of farmers markets.
In order to achieve the objectives of this study, the researcher utilised a qualitative research approach whereby a combination of semi-structured interviews and ethnography was employed. Data was analysed under a social constructivist lens and the findings of the research are presented in narrative form in order to communicate the true perspectives and opinions of those being studied. The research revealed various forms of value evident within farmers market settings in New Zealand and various factors present in its creation. This thesis presents the research and its findings, aiming to further conceptualise farmers markets within New Zealand. In doing so, the research offers small-scale food producers/entrepreneurs and the academic community insight into value processes within farmers markets and thus their true efficacy and merit as part of an alternative food network. The findings of this research can help us to further understand the role alternative food networks play in the food and agricultural sectors and thus help to define more sustainable food system opportunities within New Zealand.