Dear Dad,

Dear Dad,

Nihao from Shanghai!! (haha)

I’m doing really well!!! And no, I haven’t tried dog or cat yet lol

We visit a lot of farms here; and all of them are different. We’ve been to fish farms, rice farms, natural farms, even an urban garden. At each farm we film and interview the owners (I already have SO MUCH FOOTAGE!!!). Many of us have different research topics, but our common theme is food. My research topic (which is the overall theme of all of my academic research not just what I am looking into here) is about the political ecology of sustainably produced foods. In other words, I look at how sustainably produced foods impact both the natural environment and the social environment. My interest is especially focused on sustainably produced food in urban areas such as Detroit.

What ‘sustainably produced foods’ basically means is food that is grown and distributed in an alternative way to the industrial agricultural complex (which is the way most of our food is produced). There are many forms that this alternative way of producing food can take: for example they could be gardens just for personal consumption, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or anything in between. In general, I mainly focus on CSAs because I’m interested in this idea called a ‘moral economy’. I like to think of a moral economy as ‘ethical capitalism’–It’s the same market economy that we’re all used to (and seem to be really attached to for some reason) but it is ultimately for the benefit of society as a whole, or the benefit of a community, or for the benefit of a person’s soul rather than for the benefit an individual’s profit margin.  

Of the the farms I’ve seen while in Shanghai I would definitely say that they are operating in a moral economy. Not only are the foods being produced sustainably–no pesticides or chemicals; and at one farm he doesn’t even weed his garden because that is unnatural–but they are sold to benefit the customers over the supplier. Many of the producers are simply hoping to offer their customers and alternative to the unsafe foods that are being sold throughout the city. For example, the lady whose urban garden we saw today only trusts the produce that she grows herself and to encourage others to do what she does she freely gives her neighbors seeds.

Right now, it seems like the Chinese alternative food movement, specifically from the production side, looks a lot like the movement in the US. It’s mostly an upper-middle class movement that instead of including those of a low socio economic status (blacks in the US and rural poor in China) it excludes them due to the high prices of both starting a farm and/or consuming the produce from the farms.

Anyway Dad, just wanted to let you know about some of the things I’ve been up to in Shanghai! Can’t wait to start editing my footage and create a cohesive story (if you have any thoughts or ideas let me know PLEASE). Love, Antonia