Publication Details

Arvela, P. "Community gardens and farmers' markets: exploring representations of food culture in the Illawarra." Locale: The Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies 5 (2015): 1-31.


Over recent years, farmers' markets and community gardens have increasingly become a feature of the urban landscape and a popular representation of food culture. In endorsing the increasingly popular paddock-to-plate ethos, they purportedly promote sustainable food systems thus contributing to the reduction of food miles, increase of food security and building of strong communities. For these reasons, farmers' markets and community gardens have become significant mechanisms for the expansion of local food systems, regional socio-cultural development, and local economic revitalisation. The Illawarra, in regional NSW, has embraced them wholeheartedly. Since the 1980s the region has experienced a transition to a post-industrial knowledge-based economy, which has been accompanied by profound demographic changes. Using mixed methods of research, this study evaluates how the Illawarra's recent socio-cultural shifts find expression in the local food culture by examining how community/school gardens and farmers' markets have impacted on local food systems. The overall findings are suggestive of a socio-economic rift between the Illawarra's northern and southern suburbs, which are represented in the way social agents enact practices of food consumption and production. In the affluent north, farmers' markets cater for foodie communities favouring practices of stylised consumption of food; by contrast, the ethnic-diverse south pragmatically uses community/school gardens as sites of food production and social empowerment.