Alternative Albertan Agriculture

Humanity is facing multiple crises. We are simultaneously experiencing a climate crisis, ecological degradation, rising inequality, and issues in access and distribution of nutritious food. While there is no panacea for these problems, the way we use ecosystems to produce food, the type of food produced, and how food is distributed are important questions in addressing these crises. Alternative methods of agricultural production, or alternative farming methods (AFM), can be a set of tools that help societies address these intersecting environmental and socio-economic injustices. While a body of literature is growing on alternative farming methods as a tool to promote ecosystem services, reduce the climate emissions of the agricultural sector, and sustain the livelihoods of small and medium sized farms, a gap remains as to the social, economic, and political dimensions of the lived experiences of alternative farmers in Alberta, Canada. To address this deficit, the proposed study asks: how and why do farmers in Alberta choose to pursue alternative agricultural practices vis-à-vis the dominant mode of industrial agricultural production. The “how” subcomponent of the research question centres on themes such as the farmer’s experience accessing land, interfacing with capitalist markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), marketing, “cheap food,” networks, and knowledge. The “why” subcomponent of the research question seeks to explore the farmer’s journey to their chosen farming practice, focusing on such themes as their relationship to the land, environmental stewardship, farmer identities, (competing) meanings of regenerative agriculture, and political identities and aspirations. The thesis explores these topics through three case studies, one urban and two rural farms, spanning central and southern Alberta. Under a political ecology analytical framework, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and visual ethnographic methods were employed. In addition to this written thesis, a 30-minute film was produced to deepen the reader’s understanding of alternative agriculture in Alberta and expand the audience for this research to include members of the public for whom a written academic thesis would be inaccessible. Overall, this research seeks to bring a greater awareness to alternative farming and help inform public debate on local food systems in Alberta.
anthropology, socio-cultural anthropology, visual Anthropology, visual ethnography, alternative agriculture, regenerative agriculture, regenerative farming, alternative farming, ethnography, Alberta, Canada, political ecology, agricultural policy
Cannon, N. (2022). Alternative Albertan agriculture (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from