What's the market got to do with it? Social-ecological embeddedness and environmental practices in a local food system initiative

Russell C. Hedberg, Karl S. Zimmerer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Food system localization is often advocated by academics, activists, and policy makers as a means of effectively addressing the negative social and ecological consequences of current systems of food production. Activists and academics alike point to the range of different social relations facilitated by proximity and face-to-face interactions that are defining features of some local food system initiatives (LFSI). The concept of social embeddedness, which posits that economic activity is entangled with ongoing social relations, is frequently used to interpret the social relations of LFSI and to frame overarching arguments. Social embeddedness has been used to describe the alterity of LFSI, but much of this work has yet to assess how embedded social relations affect market functioning or sustainability in these systems—particularly for environmental aspects of sustainability. In this article we utilize the lens social embeddedness to assess what we call social-ecological embeddedness (SEE), which considers how, and to what extent, environmental practices on LFSI farms are enmeshed with the ongoing social relations of the local food system initiative. After developing the SEE approach, we use it to examine how social relations in a farmers’ market network in New York City, USA, influence environmental practices on participating farms, and the implications of social-ecological embeddedness for building more sustainable food systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Mar 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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