Critique of the West Ashley Farmer’s Market

As we have learned in class, the food industry plays a major role in environmentalism. Since the turn of the century we have seen some progress concerning sustainably produced agriculture. One enclave of this movement is the widespread popularity of Farmer’s Markets. Specifically in Charleston, we have a major market that sets up in Marion Square on Saturdays during the season. The city’s Parks and Rec department recently noticed that expansion of the market might be beneficial, so this past November, West Ashley hosted its first trial Farmer’s Market. It was to be held in Ackerman Park (which is a block from my house) on Wednesday evenings from 3:30-7:30.

I attended the market every week for a month and a half, mainly to purchase my supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, but I also intended to ethnographically observe the West Ashley Farmer’s Market. I was curious about the who, what, and how of establishing a new market in a suburban community.

From week to week I saw an eerie consistency to the market. A majority -mainly all – in attendance were white, of middle-class, wearing nice business clothes, pushing strollers, carrying dog leashes, and meeting up with others of similar status. There were only two stands with fresh produce from local farms. The other stands offered products with added preservatives, such as jams, pies, and sauces. Most of the booths were corporate companies serving prepared foods, like Roti Roll, Charleston Crepe Company, and Smoke BBQ. You could leave the market with a quarter of the items that you could get for the same price at Food Lion.

We have certain ideals for what we expect out of a farmers market. Some common objectives include shopping for variety, promoting health and sustainability, supporting local farmers, utilizing an alternative food source, and advocating for the go green movement. However, there is a sense of identity that comes from shopping for commodities of a certain caliber – think heirloom, exotic, organic. The focus shifts from being less about the produce itself and more about who is and, moreover, who isn’t shopping here.

The process of identity formation can intersect with class and race, producing exclusion of those who don’t fit a particular mold. Shoppers must be willing to pay a high price for products they didn’t grow or make themselves. Creating social barriers sets us back from sustainable living as these public places are transformed into private space due to informal social boundary construction. It seemed clear but strange to me that neighborhood parks (which supposedly promote community involvement) and farmers markets (promote a sense of health and supporting local) could be counterproductive to environmentalism as a whole.

I absolutely agree that buying local is an important step to reducing our ecological footprint; however, if food security is presented as socially exclusive, as it was at the West Ashley Farmer’s Market, is this actually holistic and sustainable? There is a need for an overarching systematic change that allows fresh produce to be readily available to all races and SES. I just want to point out that it is necessary to examine how we present sustainable food, how we idealize the green consumer, and why we have fetishized trendy movements such as Farmer’s Markets.


Fish are friends, not food

When I think of a fish, I think of a shiny and slimy creature freely gliding through a never-ending ocean. A misconception surfaced in the food industry a long time ago that drove a new diet: pescetarians. Scientists came out with the idea that fish did not have the ability to feel pain, which made it more ethical to eat fish more so then a pig, a cow, a lamb, etc. People who felt immoral eating other animals turned to fish as an alternative source of protein. Recent studies show that fish do feel pain, and sense fear and respond to stress the same way humans do. The increase in demand of fish led to commercial fishing, which directly effects the environment. The way I see fish now is much different than the way I saw them before I knew about commercial fishing:

Not only is this morally wrong to do to another species, but it effects our great oceans negatively as well. Commercial fishers practice a tactic called “bottom trawling” where fishers reach to the deepest depths of the ocean and collect fish that reside on or near the ocean floor, destroying everything in their way. Scientists have described this phenomenon to be a parallel to deforestation, impacting our ocean and biosphere greatly.

Another important point is for consumers eating these highly-stressed fish. Fish flesh isn’t healthy for you, whether it be wild caught or farm fed. Our oceans are in a constant state of pollution with PCB and Mercury. This pollution seeps through the fish flesh and into their bodies and we ingest these harmful toxins.

Giving up meat isn’t easy to do; we have been raised to believe it is where we get our protein and the bulk of our meals. But what has helped me through it is not only its impact on my personal health, but its impact on our Earth.

Lets change the misconception about marine animals and our oceans and try to reverse the damage we have already caused!

Reasons to Stop Plastic Use and Pollution

Plastic makes life for humans easier and more convenient. There are a variety of items that we use every day that contains some percentage of plastic; such as computers, cell phones, or a water bottle. Some plastic takes over 1,000 years to decompose and are leaving harmful imprints on not only the environment; however, human health. Many plastic items are only used once and then go to the dump where they will sit for an enormous about of time. As a society, we  only manage to recycle about 27% of plastic bottles. After coming across this fact online the other day I decided to look more into how plastic actually affects the environment and what environmental policies there are in place currently to lessen the impact.

There are many  impacts of plastic material on human health because of chemicals, such as BPA, that are being absorbed in our bodies. The Centers for Disease and Control estimated that a large amount of people have BPA in their urine samples that can be detected. Many other chemicals from plastic contaminates water used by plants, animals and humans.

Much of the plastic pollution is broken down into tiny particles, which when ingested by fish, poisons them, and then eventually travels up the food chain to humans. Birds and fish inadvertently feed on plastic that floats in the water, misinterpreting it for food.  Around 32 million tons of plastic waste accumulated in 2012 – this plastic waste produces tons of chemicals that heavily affect marine animals.

To reduce the impact that plastic has on the Earth and everything that utilizes its resources there needs to be a change in not only the amount of plastic used, but also the way it is discarded. Folly Beach and Isle of Palms are the only two places in South Carolina to have some sort of ban on plastic bags, preventing them from being used by many retailers. There are some businesses, such as Trader Joe’s, offering incentives to their costumers for bringing in a reusable grocery bag. Every time a customer leaves and has brought reusable bags, they add their name to a raffle box to enter the monthly competition of winning a Trader Joe’s gift card. There are many ideas to urge people to recycle more, but we as a society just need to come together and begin the process.

Humans can reduce and recycle more, buy reusable grocery bags, pick up litter, and instead of using plastic, use alternative materials such as steel, glass, and reclaimed wood. There are many ways to switch from using plastic to alternative methods that make a huge difference.

Below is a picture with reasons why one should try and quit using plastic: