Owen 's Reviews > Together at the Table: Sustainability and Sustenance in the American Agrifood System

Together at the Table by Patricia Allen
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
May 30, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: farm-and-food
Read in May, 2008

very interesting in that the author questions the ability for "sustainable agriculture" and "food security" movements to coexist and support each other. can we support local, ecologically-sound food and farming systems AND work towards social justice at the same time? p. allen poses such relevant and challenging questions for those of us who are attempting to make these broad and diverse changes.

i fell in love with this book at the end. it just got better and better. this is a critical and absolutely necessary questioning of who are we fighting to change the food system for; who are "we"; how can "we" include all of the actors in the food system (farmworkers, food service folks, emergency food customers, etc); and finally, are we meeting our goals?

some quotes that stood out:

On discourse:
“’It is precisely in the creation, articulation, and formulation of new thoughts and ideas – new knowledge – that a social movement defines itself in society’. Discourse is not only constitutive of social movements; it is also one of the primary tools movements employ to work toward social change”. (page 6).

"It is through discourse that dominant perspectives within organizations, institutions, and society in general are produced, reproduced, contested, and transformed”. (page 81).

“The way the world ‘is’ insidiously translates and mutates into how the world ‘can only be’ or ‘should be’” (Page 118).

“The problem with focusing on structural change is that it seems remote and impossible. It can take time and energy away from work that could be making a difference in people’s lives even if it does not change the basic system. These leaders were more overwhelmed by than they were unwilling to confront core problems in the agrifood system” (page 208).

On participation:
“Progressive reforms can only be realized through the empowerment of those who are currently in subordinate positions. While involving those who have been excluded or subordinated is clearly required to meet liberal standards of democracy, it is in and of itself insufficient for achieving a deep democracy. As Stiefel and Wolfe (1994:5) point out, “After all, everyone ‘participates’ in society, whether as an effective actor or a passive victim” (page 158).

“Full participation and autonomous agency to make decisions require the evening out of various forms of power in society” (page 159).

On social change:
“Campbell (2001:353) sums up the situation, describing the sustainable agriculture movement as being ‘caught in unyielding tradeoffs between their commitment to deeply rooted social change and the need to be politically credible” (page 208).

“Unless groups working for change are aware of the need for deeper social restructuring, they may ‘end up legitimizing the very processes and interests they are seeking to change’” (page 208).

“We cannot move toward a future we cannot imagine, and we cannot imagine a future we don’t believe is possible” (page 210).

“Not every social problem generates a social movement; this potential lies with those issues that ‘strike a fundamental chord, that touch basic tensions in society’ (Eyerman and Jamison 1991). Agrifood issues are clearly those that have the potential to catalyze broad social movements. Through its procurement, preparation, and consumption food structures some part of daily life for each of us. It is an ‘intimate’ commodity in that it is something we take inside our bodies, which gives it special significance over commodities consumed outside the body” (page 212).


Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Together at the Table.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.