- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, social capital, social networks
In Phase 2 of Growing Local, ASAP’s Local Food Research Center conducted surveys and interviews with farmers, food industry buyers, and consumers and completed analyses of data from the Census of Agriculture and ASAP’s Local Food Guide database. The research revealed the important role of place-based food and farm experiences for driving interest and demand for local food, identified strategies for farmers to use to build their farm brand and customer bases, and identified findings relevant for food buyers and entrepreneurs navigating increasing consumer demand for local food as well as increasing consumer skepticism of retailer claims.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
- Conduct research with farmers and food buyers/entrepreneurs to document ways they are navigating and creating the food system’s emerging and shifting terrain – the opportunities and challenges they encounter, the decisions and innovations they employ in the context of shifting opportunities and constraints.
- Conduct a full analysis of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data for Western North Carolina (in comparison to 1997, 2002, and 2007 data) – focus on indicators related to tobacco production and sales, fruit and vegetable production, and direct to consumer sales
- Conduct research with shoppers at farmers markets and with attendees of other local food- and farm-related events to determine the impacts of these experiences on participants. Are these experiences promoting a democratization of the food system by increasing awareness and knowledge of food and agriculture, facilitating interaction and dialogue between participants about food and agriculture, building participants’ capacities to take actions that will affect change in the food system, and building an orientation among participants toward the public good? And what kinds of actions are movement participants taking?
- Collate and analyze data from ASAP’s Growing Minds farm to school work, which uses place-based food and farm education and experience to create environments in schools that model healthy eating behaviors to kids, teachers, and staff.
- Conduct reviews of emerging literature relevant to local food system development. Focus key areas of literature review on social movement theory (e.g., stages of development, coalescence, collapse, lessons from other social movements), the sociology and psychology of changing individuals’ perceptions and practices, the true “cost” of food, social capital measures, and the concern-action gap.