Small-scale Farmers: Sources of “Buen Vivir” | Mexico


With the premise that human Buen Vivir is holistic and includes individual, communitarian and environmental aspects. Ana and a group of small-scale agro-ecological farmers of a nested farmer’s market in Chiapas, Mexico have put together a series of qualitative indicators. These were used to assess how selling in a nested farmer’s market contributed to their Buen VivirThe Buen Vivir elements of the nested market were compared to other types of market outlets, such as conventional produce markets or door-to-door sales.

The results drawn from this research suggested that nested markets have more elements associated with Buen Vivir than conventional markets, such as emotional rewards and social recognition. Nevertheless, these markets also present challenges, such as low profits and discomforts related with social interaction. In the end, this research shows that the assessed nested markets have the potential to fulfill human necessities. social interaction. In the end, this research shows that the assessed nested markets have the potential to fulfill human necessities.

Strengthening nested markets can have beneficial impacts in the Buen Vivir of agroecological famers because they are sale outlets and they contribute to the sustainability of their agroecological production model.

8 thoughts on “Small-scale Farmers: Sources of “Buen Vivir” | Mexico

  1. I thought it was interesting that Ana was addressing an everyday thing, like food and how food can bring about buen vivir. Outside of the obvious nourishment qualities of food. Food is such an essential element; it is all around us. For many including myself the stage at which we see food is the low quality/diversity found in most grocery stores that is typically hyper concentration of capital. Back home in Kansas City we have farmers markets and we have our local/seasonal guys that post up in parking lots, but the main source to receive produce for those that don’t live in a food desert is the grocery store. One of my very first jobs was working at a supermarket/grocery store. Grocery stores were the place for kids/young people under the age of 18 to work and start a job history. I could only image if your first job was to actually grow the produce you were expected to sell to make a living with your family. According to Ana because of this youth are actually gaining interests in agriculture and growing their own produce, they are staying contacted with their parents or family. I feel that as young people go off and follow their dreams outside of the family profession, it becomes harder and harder to stay connected with your family and loved ones, especially if you’re in a different city miles away. Maybe I would be closer and know more about my mother and grandmother; or maybe not. Either way the more education I go off to receive the more and more I feel a disconnect with my loved ones. Since grocery stores are the norm, we are use to and oaky with the quality of produce. As nested markets continue to grow I feel that it may lead to a demand of the grocery stores to provide better quality produce. People may even get in the habit of no longer buying produce from stores and only from their local market guy/lady. Those that has the space may eventually just grow their own if conditions allow. If all you are use to is a certain quality, once you have something of certain grade or quality it is hard to return/accept anything less.

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  2. Thank you so much Cacena for such feedback that reflect on the lecture and also your personal experience in working closer to food business and being exposed to how food is produced, stored and sold.
    It seems that the world is going towards more systematic and less human era.

    Although your statement:
    “…… the more education I go off to receive the more and more I feel a disconnect with my loved…..” is not about food, but it touches on our Wednesday dichotomy of wither the world is going towards the right direction or in the way of making progress we eliminate the sense of life, traditions, one-to-one and human life?

    And the questions remains: can small farmers fulfill the food demand if given the chance without being corporatized?


  3. Ana Galvis’ presentation extremely interested me. We live in a world where markets are controlled by a wealthy few whose goal is not necessarily our well-being, but are more interested in the money we put in their pockets. I live in a city that suffers environmental injustices. We do not have local markets or stores that sell organic food. We do not have that option; we have cheap vegetables that are sprayed with dozens of chemicals and many of the animals from where we eat our meat are fed hormones. We have a farmers market that comes to our city once a month and that is the closest to getting fresh food as it gets for my family and the people living in our city.
    Like Ana mentioned, the control of markets has led to a large disparity of the wealthy and the poor. The Alternative Food System that she mentioned was for me a great system to providing an equal distribution of wealth to the people while allowing them to grow their own food and bond with their families. The pillars that Ana established for “buen vivir” in agricultural communities in Chiapas, I believe are very important for a good healthy life. Her research really interested me and I wonder how we could bring something like what is being done in Chiapas to the U.S. However, I feel like doing something like this would be a little farfetched since the U.S. favors large corporations and our capitalist systems wouldn’t really fit into the alternative food system. Another question that sparked me during her presentation was what can we do as designers to promote this idea of “Buen vivir”. Overall, I found her idea of “buen vivir” for small scale farmers to be ideal for these farmers in Chaipas, even though they do not win as much money as they would wish; they have a stronger connection to their family, the land, and their food.

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  4. Nice post. This nested markets reminds me of the open market system prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The open markets provide more to the community than just a commercial space. The open markets are also a source of tourism as one can find exotic foods from smoked monkeys to snakes and worms. Many a tourist and business visitors make sure that they visit the open markets as well. These open markets are also a social place of interaction for local women, where they not only share their issues with each other but also the daily menu with each other. Since cooking food for their family plays a key role in their lives, discussions around what is the new recipe and flavor is very important. Many a food companies exploit this fact to their own advantage and use the open markets as a space for marketing new recipes through word of mouth and live cooking demos. It is also being used for imparting knowledge on nutrition and healthy eating. It is interesting how commercial spaces can be used as community spaces for the larger benefit and sustainable development of a community.

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  5. I thought this talk by Ana Galvis was quite engaging. It was essentially a well-presented example of theories I am quite familiar with. She did a good job of efficiently summing up monoculture food production and its associated consumer/producer relationship versus diversified agriculture, agro-ecology and its effect on communities and society. Her holistic ‘buen vivir’ context for the case study as a method to break food empires was also well explained.

    Her research method of giving out cameras to her participants was also a great idea. As she said this unlocks a whole other realm of communication and form of documentation otherwise unknown. The result of this is emic research a valuable source of information. What needs to happen now is markets and case studies like this on a massive scale.

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  6. The concept of well-being, buen vivir, and what contributes to it or detracts from it is an extremely important topic. Ana’s presentation was by far the best one this semester; not only did the context of her research describe what made a nested food market rich but her delivery and personal touches furthermore demonstrated the goals of buen vivir. Starting the presentation with introductions of the speaker as well as the audience made for a more engaging conversation. Despite some of the material being in Spanish the information was still easily comprehended.

    One of the main points of Ana’s discussion that I had never given too much thought to is the food empires and being able to provide an alternative food system. We live in a capitalistic society, one of the problems of the U.S. as related to food is the producer consumer flow. Due to food empires there is a huge disconnect between who grows the food and who eats it. Thus, both sides are unaware of the other. In contrast, nested food markets, an alternative food system, provide that knowledge and cut out the third party that holds all the capital. It is a more valuable network because of benefits such as polyculture, strong organized producers, agro-ecological production, the holistic approach to agriculture, organic and diverse food, connection of producers and consumers, more equity and justice, as well as distributes wealth. We can learn more from Chiapas, Mexico and the nested food markets as they differ from average famer’s markets.

    Ana’s research approach is awe inspiring as well, in order to learn from the people she had to first teach them a new skill. Participatory photography built a bond between Ana and her study participants. She gave them digital cameras and taught them how to use it, thus trust and more engagement was the outcome. It developed into a creative way to display project results. Ultimately, a video that was shared with the participants of the findings was a way to show her data and conclusions but also thank those that assisted in her gaining the knowledge. She shared four categories on how the nested market contributes to buen vivir, via family, work, mother earth, and groups.

    One surprising fact of those working in the market was the backgrounds. The vendors’ education ranged from semi-literate to PhDs. Regardless of education the idea of buen vivir was evident from the nested market. It fosters family in attracting the youth to grow and sell, provides work that is meaningful, has a sense of value especially for the women, and stable income regardless of the amount, provides a care for mother earth because it is environmentally safe and pesticide free, and creates social settings for group interactions. Although there is a con for every pro, mala vida, was present as well in this nested market: lack of family support, not enough income, some activities did contaminate water, and paternalism within the members. Despite the setbacks the harmonic relationship is present in a nested market as oppose to another market and food empire.

    Moreover, Ana’s conversation shed light on the importance of people interaction, disparity in wealth, and what makes for good living. It is ideal that more nested markets occur and more often.

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  7. One of the most interesting aspects of this talk for me was the idea of using participatory photography as a research method. This semester I am taking a research methods course, and we are currently focused on the topic of ethnography: how do you study people? We have been talking a lot about the unequal power dynamics between researcher and subject that are an inherent part of ethnographic research. I think that the idea to give your subjects cameras and ask them to photograph their own world is a really clever way to involve the research subject in a more equal way in the production of knowledge.

    This talk also reminded me of New Orleans. I lived there a few years after Hurricane Katrina, which had damaged one of the major grocery stores (Circle Food Store) that served a lower-income part of the city. As a result of the storm, the store was closed for several years, and this part of the city then became even more of a ‘food desert’ – meaning a place where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to find, especially if you don’t have a car. This is often a problem in low-income communities, because large supermarkets are interested in profitability and so they tend to be established in higher-income suburban neighborhoods. People living in low-income urban or rural communities are then stuck with going to convenience stores, gas stations, or drugstores where they only have access to unhealthy, processed foods.

    In order to counteract this, the Hollygrove Market & Farm (HM&F) was established in New Orleans. Their website ( contains the following description: “HM&F has developed and operates a CSA-style cooperative and retail market. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. . . . At HM&F, in place of members buying shares from a single farm, we buy from a network or collective of small farms and urban growers throughout the region. Our sources consist of backyard growers, community gardens, urban micro-farms in New Orleans, and rural farms throughout southern Louisiana and Mississippi.”

    Like the example of the nested market in Mexico, I believe that Hollygrove is a successful example of using small-scale food production to reestablish a connection between producers and consumers, and to counteract both food empires and food deserts.

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  8. Ana’s lecture on foods impact in bringing about buen vivir was an interesting look on the effect that a culture’s food can have on the people. It was particularly interesting the difference between the farm market culture and the grocery store dynamic we have here.
    Her work highlighted the impact that farmers markets have on growing families in the country. A lot of family activity is focused around these marketplaces and yet a small minority of the wealthy is controlling these markets. This is leading to large issues with income disparity and harsh control over market places. Where I grew up we had farmers markets, but they were often very small and hidden. For my entire life, getting food was an individual activity and dinner was bought at a grocery store by whoever was free at the time. This differs staunchly from what happens in Mexico where families are raised around agriculture and these large scale farmers markets. These have become the pillars of the community and serve to provide people with a center for culture and leisure. The Alternative Food System was a very interesting approach to combating the unequal distribution of wealth in the country and allowing families to bond. It would be interesting to see how something like this would be applied to America and whether or not it would have a similar effect as it does in Mexico.
    The only element that I wish she would have discussed more is the potential for differences in pesticide use between the countries, and how markets help to counteract a lot of negative health issues in the country. A discussion on something like this would have been interesting to explore and could have shed some more light on the benefits that markets have on the overall well being of the people.
    The lecture was very impressive and gave a distinct perspective on the way food and marketplace relations affect our everyday relations. Though I am not sure whether or not this culture could every really function in America, it was nonetheless a very interesting policy idea.


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