Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kevin A. Yelvington


local food, neoliberalism, place-making, social movements, Southern Appalachians


This dissertation examines a movement in Western North Carolina to build a local food system, one grounded in the conditions and relationships of place. In 2000, Mountain Family Farms launched the Local Food Campaign to raise public awareness about the region's farms and farming heritage, to educate consumers about the benefits of buying food grown by local farms, and, ultimately, to build markets for locally grown food to sustain the region's farms. The campaign sparked a social movement and over a decade later local farms and locally grown food are a palpable feature of life in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This dissertation is the result of my tenure at the organization as an employee and four years of ethnographic research.

The primary objective of my research has been to understand how the Local Food Movement in Western North Carolina is interacting with and affecting the industrialized food industry at the local level. Drawing on perspectives within anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, feminist theory, and social movements theory and from the concepts of hegemony, cultural politics, place-making, and social capital, this dissertation understands the movement in Western North Carolina within a processual framework, an integral part of the hegemonic process, which struggles to define and legitimize the practices and ideas that govern way of life. To examine this process, my research has focused on the ways movement organizers create a movement culture and mediate a tension between the dual imperatives of engaging the dominant food system and protecting the integrity of movement goals. Equally, my research has focused on understanding the impacts of movement activities on the region's food system - on the perceptions and practices of consumers and farmers and of the businesses that serve and sell food in the region.

My dissertation reveals the significance of place-making to the strategies of movement organizers - grounding movement participants and observers in the particularities of place, developing a shared place-based consciousness, cultivating different economic subjectivities that affect different material impacts. My dissertation documents the hegemonic process - the encounter and interaction between movement meanings, ideas, and practices and those of the dominant, conventional food industry. Within this process, movement outcomes are the responses of movement organizers, participants, and observers as they mediate challenges and opportunities at the intersection of disparate ideas and practices. Within a dynamic movement, outcomes are both provisional and incremental, shifting in relation to emergent knowledge and perceptions and the actions they inform.