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From Farm to Canal Street: Chinatown's Alternative Food Network in the Global Marketplace

by Valerie Imbruce Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 232 pages
AU$43.99 NZ$46.08
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On the sidewalks of Manhattan's Chinatown, you can find street vendors and greengrocers selling bright red litchis in the summer and mustard greens and bok choy no matter the season. The neighborhood supplies more than two hundred distinct varieties of fruits and vegetables that find their way onto the tables of immigrants and other New Yorkers from many walks of life. Chinatown may seem to be a unique ethnic enclave, but it is by no means isolated. It has been shaped by free trade and by American immigration policies that characterize global economic integration. In From Farm to Canal Street, Valerie Imbruce tells the story of how Chinatown's food network operates amid—and against the grain of—the global trend to consolidate food production and distribution. Manhattan’s Chinatown demonstrates how a local market can influence agricultural practices, food distribution, and consumer decisions on a very broad scale.

Imbruce recounts the development of Chinatown’s food network to include farmers from multimillion-dollar farms near the Everglades Agricultural Area and tropical "homegardens" south of Miami in Florida and small farms in Honduras. Although hunger and nutrition are key drivers of food politics, so are jobs, culture, neighborhood quality, and the environment. Imbruce focuses on these four dimensions and proposes policy prescriptions for the decentralization of food distribution, the support of ethnic food clusters, the encouragement of crop diversity in agriculture, and the cultivation of equity and diversity among agents in food supply chains. Imbruce features farmers and brokers whose life histories illuminate the desires and practices of people working in a niche of the global marketplace.

Introduction: Situating Manhattan's ChinatownChapter 1. Greengrocers and Street VendorsChapter 2. The Social Network of TradeChapter 3. Okeechobee Bok ChoyChapter 4. Bringing Southeast Asia to the Southeastern United StatesChapter 5. Growing Asian Vegetables in HondurasChapter 6. Chinese Food in American CultureChapter 7. Chinatown's Food Network and New York City PoliciesConclusion: Diversity and Dynamism in Global MarketsAppendix A: Produce Vendors in ChinatownAppendix B: Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, and Herbs Sold in ChinatownAppendix C: Food Plants Found in Southeast Asian Homegardens in Miami-Dade County, FloridaAppendix D: Research MethodsNotesReferencesIndex

"The excellent From Farm to Canal Street is lively and accessible. Valerie Imbruce describes a food contracting system that is an alternative to the dominant vertically integrated corporate system. She systematically tracks the links to Chinatown's internationally extensive food supply chain. This book offers validation of a food chain that the New York City government does not publicly acknowledge and that the city's current land use policies could effectively wipe out by encouraging further upscale real estate development in Chinatown."
- Lynn McCormick, Hunter College

"In From Farm to Canal Street, Valerie Imbruce provides a unique perspective on food systems."
- E. Melanie DuPuis, Pace University, coauthor of Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Practice, and Politics
Valerie Imbruce is Grant Writer for Strategic Research Initiatives at Binghamton University–The State University of New York