Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Trust Your Farmer? Sustainable Practices, Home-grown Institutions, and the Quest for Resilient Food Systems

Date and Time
Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Location
The Generator (Gross Hall 100C)
Trust Your Farmer? Sustainable Practices, Home-grown Institutions, and the Quest for Resilient Food Systems

About

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Third-party certification prevails as a necessary oversight mechanism in complex global food production systems. It is ultimately a substitute for trust. At local and regional scales, however, certification risks becoming a cumbersome and costly barrier—crowding out simpler, efficient and low-cost means for ensuring safety and sustainability. Relationship-centered, home-grown institutions—like community-supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers markets, and direct trade approaches—nurture trust among food system stakeholders and consumers. These institutional alternatives also foster the foundations of ecologically resilient agriculture, the co-production and implementation of sustainable farming practices.

Join us for an in-person talk by Duke University alumna Shana Starobin MEM/MPP '08, PhD '16, assistant professor of government and legal studies and environmental studies at Bowdoin College. She'll share research findings based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted with farmers and other food system stakeholders in Maine (2018-2022), as well as comparative insights from multiple waves of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in Latin America since 2007.

Part of the UPEP Environmental Institutions Seminar Series, organized by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University Energy Initiative, and the University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP), a doctoral degree program jointly offered by the Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

FULL ABSTRACT: Third-party certification prevails as a necessary oversight mechanism when supply chain intermediaries and consumers lack credible pathways to verify practices and behaviors linked to unobservable or untestable attributes of goods and production processes. Yet, by design, certification is ultimately a substitute for trust—essential to effective governance though difficult to cultivate and deploy across highly elongated and fragmented global production systems. Certification likewise persists at local and regional scales—though proximity between producers and consumers make the conditions for trust possible. At these scales, certification risks becoming a cumbersome and costly barrier—crowding out simpler, efficient and low cost means for ensuring safety and sustainability. Relationship-centered, home-grown institutions—like community-supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers markets, and direct trade approaches—nurture trust among food system stakeholders and consumers. These institutional alternatives, moreover, foster the foundations of ecologically resilient agriculture—the co-production of knowledge and implementation of on-farm practices that promote stewardship of scarce natural resources (soil, water, land) for the future. The theoretical and empirical contributions of this research derive from ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted with farmers and other food system stakeholders in Maine (2018-2022)—with comparative insights from multiple-waves of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in Latin America (since 2007).

Speakers

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Shana M. Starobin, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of government and legal studies and environmental studies at Bowdoin College. Previously, Shana was a fellow with the Penn Program on Regulation at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her research centers on the politics of transnational business regulation and institutional innovation in global environmental governance. Her work has appeared in publications including Business and Politics, Ecological Economics, Global Environmental Politics, Public Administration Review, and the Review of Policy Research. Shana received her Ph.D. and two master's degrees in environment and public policy from Duke, as well as an A.B. in the history of science from Harvard.