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Pumpkins and squashes for sale at a farmers market

Reconnecting Producers, Consumers and Food: Alternative Food Networks


Cultures of Consumption Programme

Total value of project


Project team

Professor Moya Kneafsey, R. Cox, L. Holloway, E. Dowler


University of Warwick

Duration of project

01/06/2003 - 01/12/2006

Project overview

This project was one of the first to explore the motivations of consumers and producers participating in different types of ‘Alternative Food Network’ such as farmers markets, box schemes, and community supported agriculture (also often referred to as ‘short’ food supply chains).

Through six detailed case studies, using a range of qualitative methods, the research uncovered insights into why people seek to ‘reconnect’ with food. It highlighted the range and diversity of of AFNs in the UK and found that AFNs support relations of care between people, their environments and their communities: AFNs allow people to (re)connect with people and place. The research also found that being involved in AFNs could lead consumers to change their behaviour in other areas too, such as recycling, growing their own food and looking for more ethical and sustainable sources of other goods.

  • The research produced a significant and widely cited body of journal papers, book chapters and a research monograph. It contributed to advancing the conceptualisation of Alternative Food Networks and provided rich qualitative data about the perceptions and behaviours of the producers and consumers involved. 

    Recommendations were made for policies and practice. For example, based on the research it was argued that policies to enable consumers to access AFNs need to be formulated in different spheres of government activity e.g. health, rural and urban regeneration, education, planning. The research argued that it is important not to ‘dismiss’ certain groups of consumer as being ‘uninterested’ in AFNs. Understanding the diversity amongst AFN is key; they serve different groups of consumers and are associated with different sets of ethical values and long-term objectives. Policies should encourage this diversity to thrive in the context of different local needs.

  • A summary of research findings is available here:

    Cox, R., Holloway,L., Venn,L., KNEAFSEY, M., Dowler, E. (2011) Adopting a Sheep in Abruzzo: Agritourism and the Preservation of Transhumance Farming in Central Italy. In Torres, R. And Momsen, J. (eds) Tourism and Agriculture: new Geographies of Consumption, Production and Rural Restructuring, Routledge.

    Holloway, L. Cox, R., KNEAFSEY M., Dowler, E., Venn, L., and Tuomainen, H. (2010) Are you alternative? ‘Alternative’ food networks and consumers’ definitions of alterity.  In Fuller, D., Jonas, A., and Lee, R. (eds) Alternative Economic and Political Spaces. Ashgate

    Dowler, E., KNEAFSEY, M., Cox, R., Holloway, L. (2009) 'Doing food differently': Reconnecting biological and social relationships through care for food, Sociological Review 57 (SUPPL. 2): 200-221

    KNEAFSEY, M., Cox, R., Holloway, L., Dowler, E., Venn, L., and Tuomainen, H. (2008) Reconnecting Consumers, Producers and Food: Exploring Alternatives

    Cox, R., Holloway, L., Venn, L., Dowler, E., Ricketts-Hein, J., Kneafsey, M., Tuomainen, H. (2008) Common Ground? Motivations for participation in a community supported agriculture scheme. Local Environment 13 (3): 203-218

    Holloway, L. Venn, L., Cox, R., KNEAFSEY, M., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2008) Dirty vegetables: connecting consumers to the growing of their food. In Campkin, B and Cox, R. (eds) Dirt: new geographies of cleanlinesss and contamination London I.B. Tauris.

    Cox, R. KNEAFSEY, M., Venn, L., Holloway, L., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2008) Constructing Sustainability through Reconnection – the case of ‘alternative’ food networks, in Robinson, G. (ed) Sustainable Rural Systems. Ashgate.

    Holloway, L., KNEAFSEY, M., Cox, R., Venn, L., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2007) Beyond the ‘alternative’-conventional divide? Thinking differently about food production-consumption, in Maye, D., Holloway, L. and KNEAFSEY, M. (eds) Alternative Food Geographies, Elsevier.

    Holloway, L., KNEAFSEY, M., Venn, L., Cox, R., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2007) Possible food economies: a methodological framework for exploring food production-consumption relationships Sociologia Ruralis 47(1): 1-19

    Venn, L. KNEAFSEY, M., Holloway, L., Cox, R., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2006) Researching European ‘alternative’ food networks: some methodological considerations Area 38,3, 248-258

    Holloway, L. Cox, R., Venn, L., KNEAFSEY, M., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H.  (2006) Managing sustainable farmed landscape through ‘alternative’ food networks: a case study from Italy Geographical Journal, 172, 219-229

    Holloway, L and KNEAFSEY, M. (2004) Producing-Consuming Food: Closeness, Connectedness and Rurality in Four ‘Alternative’ Food Networks, in Holloway, L. and KNEAFSEY, M. (2004) Geographies of Rural Cultures and Societies, Ashgate, Aldershot, England

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