This article contributes to debates about the potential of alternative food networks and their contradictions using sustainability-oriented farmer training programs as a case study. I provide an empirical account of the political-economic structures at play in the construction of farmer trainings as a solution to the farming crisis, as well as the possibilities and tensions herein. I argue that that the main rationale framing the farming problem in the public-institutional discourse – namely the apolitical production of a scarcity of farmers – and its discursive usage in popular and institutional circles directs the solution towards the urgent production of more farmers who will farm sustainably and independently of the current structural conditions in which farming is embedded. On the ground, this apolitical ecology is sustained by philanthropism and consumption elitism. In addition, the making of FTPs as an intervention to solve the farming crisis is determined by neoliberal governance structures that promote the devolution of power into the NGO sector and responsibilization of individuals. I finally call for a broader and non-binary vision to alternatives, in which political ecology perspectives bring relevant tools and insights. The case of FTPs throws light into the particular governmentalities, forms of governing at-a-distance, and whiteness associated with sustainable farming and agriculture, and the way society thinks of it.
Keywords: California, privilege, power, NGOization of farming, alternative food networks, alternatives, sustainable agriculture, emergent farmers, farmer training programs
How to Cite:
Arguelles, L., (2020) “Entangled alternatives: political-economic conditions constructing farmer training programs as solutions to the farming crisis”, Journal of Political Ecology 27(1), 1148-1165. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v27i1.23241