How Local Food System Development Affects the Sustainability of Agriculture: The Impact of Farmer-Consumer Interactions on Production Practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2015: $34,830.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Jackson
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to look at the impact of local food system development on the production practices of farmers. Across movement and academic literature, local food system building is conceived as a means to create environmentally sustainable food systems. Critics argue that the close production-consumption relationships theorized to positively impact farmer production practices is unsubstantiated. This research project will study the effect of personal(izing) market relationships on the practices farmers are using to produce food and on the assumptions and choices of local food consumers. If a goal of local food system organizers and advocates is to build systems of food production and distribution that are environmentally sound, then we need to understand how the dynamics in localizing food systems, specifically the interactions between farmers and consumers, are shaping this process. Research activities will conduct interviews with farmers, intercept surveys with local food consumers, and analyze existing data that bears on trends in farmer production practices in the region over a period of 15 years. The information learned from this project will provide local food practitioners with important insights into how the movement to localize food systems is contributing (or not) to the development of environmentally sustainable agriculture - the strategies and actions that facilitate this process, the actions practitioners need to take. For farmers and farmers market, project findings will provide a deeper understanding of consumer perceptions/concerns and how best to communicate information about production practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Review literature that pertains to the impacts of farmer-consumer interactions on farmer practices and consumer knowledge/expectations/choices. What do existing studies tell us about the impacts and potential implications (and limitations) of these interactions?
    2. Conduct research with farmers growing for/selling to local markets to find out about their interactions with local customers. What kinds of interactions are they having with customers about production practices? How/what do they communicate with their customers about production practices? What have they learned from these interactions in terms of what customers want to know and what their concerns are? (How) have these interactions affected their production practice decisions and what/how they are communicating to the public?
    3. Conduct research with consumers of local food to find out about their interactions with local farmers around how food is being produced. Specifically, what are consumers’ assumptions about local food and the way it is produced? What kinds of interactions are they having with farmers about how food is being produced? What are they learning from farmers, what are they communicating to farmers? How is this interaction influencing their perceptions and actions around local food?
    4. Study trends in farmer production practices in the project region to understand how agricultural practices in the region have evolved in relation to local food movement activities.
    5. Disseminate project findings to local food practitioners, farmers and farmers markets, university students and staff, and the public.  

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.