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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Alternative Food Networks in Food System Transition-Values, Motivation, and Capacity Building among Young Swedish Market Gardeners

Drottberger, Annie; Melin, Martin; Lundgren, Lotten


This study sheds light on a new generation of Swedish food producers, market gardeners, who are attracting attention in terms of food system sustainability, prompted by increasing consumer awareness about the value of healthy and locally produced food. Market gardening is part of a global agroecological movement opposed to industrialized agriculture and its negative impacts on the environment and rural communities. These food producers challenge the incumbent agri-food regime through the building of alternative food networks. This case-based study involving 14 young vegetable producers showed that young people who engage in market gardening are strongly motivated by dual incentives, namely entrepreneurship and transformation to sustainability. Six main competences were identified as important for market gardeners: practical skills related to growing vegetables, business management, innovation and continuous learning, systems thinking, pioneering, and networking. Individuals develop their skills through continuous experiential learning and gain knowledge through peer-to-peer learning using social media. However, they need to acquire certain skills relating to their daily work in the field and to managing a business. Market gardeners currently face a number of barriers erected by the sociopolitical environment, in particular regarding access to research-based knowledge, extension services, and business support.


agroecology; competencies; food system; lock-in; market gardening; skills; sustainability; transition; urban farming

Published in

2021, Volume: 13, number: 8, article number: 4502

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      Nature experiences and health

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG2 Zero hunger
      SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Agricultural Science
      Food Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)