Date of Thesis

2013

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Michelle Johnson

Keywords

Anthropology of Food, environmental anthropology, organic farming, wwoofing

Abstract

In this thesis, I explore the meaning behind sustainable living among organic farmers and their families in two countries. It is based on original, ethnographic research that I conducted in New Zealand in fall 2012 and Peru in summer 2012 with support from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Meerwarth Undergraduate Research Fund. In carrying out my research I relied on participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Drawing on contemporary scholarship in the anthropology of food and the environment, my thesis contributes to cross-culturally understandings of sustainability and local and global foodways. Specifically, I will interpret the meaning and significance of my informants’ decision to live sustainably through their participation in wwoofing. The global network of wwoofing aims to connect volunteers interested in learning about organic farming techniques with farmers looking for labor assistance. Volunteers exchange work for food, accommodation, knowledge, and experience. As a method of farming and a subjective ideological orientation, this global movement allows travelers from all over the world to experience organic lifestyles worldwide. In my thesis, I connect my experiences of organic living in Peru and New Zealand. In comparing wwoofing practices in these two field sites, I argue that despite observable differences in organic practices, a global organic culture is emerging. Here I highlight some shared features of this global organic culture, such as food authenticity, sustainability of the earth, and a personal connection of individuals to the land. The global organic culture emphasizes a conscious awareness of what is going into one’s body and why. Using food as an expression of values and beliefs, organic farmers reconnect to the land and their food in attempts to construct an alternative identity. By focusing on food authenticity, my informants develop vast relationships with the land, which shapes their identity and creates new forms of self-enhancement.

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