Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Food Systems

First Advisor

Amy B. Trubek

Second Advisor

Cheryl E. Morse


This transdisciplinary dissertation explores the connections between material conditions, human engagements, and the social, economic, and ecological contexts in which they exist. It investigates imaginations of a better food system, projects people have already undertaken, and what happens when their visions meet reality.

Chapter 1 weaves together diverse literature: a justification for action-oriented research and a blending of ecofeminist scholarship, agroecology and sustainable agriculture, ecological economics, systems theory and food systems scholarship, and sensory studies. These disciplines tie together through notions of embeddedness, embodiment, and the context for action, which all translate to the dissertation’s methodological approach of mixed qualitative case study methods.

Chapter 2 is a case study of Essex Farm, a full-diet, community-supported-agriculture farm in rural New York. It examines the complexity of pursuing multiple forms of “sustainability” in diversified farming, including the precarious reliance on shifting social relationships, conflicts between environmental stewardship and financial survival, ongoing negotiations of agricultural sustainability, and the spiritual role that the farm plays in farmers’ and members’ lives.

Chapter 3 is a case study of Smag for Livet (Taste for Life), a taste-based education and research center in Denmark. It situates the project’s work within a larger Danish setting of social welfare, modern identity, gastronomic movements, and food education. The chapter uncovers tensions in conducing interdisciplinary research and communication with a goal of non-normativity and in the interplay between aesthetic representations, class divides, and democratic ideals.

Chapter 4 blends insights from both cases to reveal an internationally-shared aesthetic of regional food focused on pleasure, ecological integrity, holistic health from the individual to the global, connection to landscape and way of life, and evangelization of such values.

The dissertation concludes by relating these insights to wider efforts at envisioning and conducting values-based projects aimed at a better, future food system.



Number of Pages

288 p.