Alternative food initiatives are appearing in many places. Observers suggest that they share a political agenda: to oppose the structures that coordinate and globalize the current food system and to create alternative systems of food production that are environmentally sustainable, economically viable, and socially just. This paper examines the potential of these initiatives through the lens of the concepts of ‘alternative and oppositional’ social movements and ‘militant particularism and global ambition’ developed by Raymond Williams and David Harvey. The three sections of this paper review (1) the current discussion of common themes and strategies in agrifood initiatives within the academic literature; (2) the history of these initiatives in California; and (3) results of our interviews with 37 current leaders of California organizations. We suggest that further understanding these initiatives, and success in the goals of the initiatives themselves, requires us to look past their similarities to examine their differences. These differences are related to the social forms and relations that have been established in the places from which these initiatives arise. ‘Social justice,’ in particular, may be difficult to construct at a ‘local’ scale.