Growing Local – Phase II

2014 Annual Report for LS14-260

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $299,943.00
Projected End Date: 02/18/2018
Grant Recipient: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Jackson
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Growing Local – Phase II


In Phase 2, ASAP will continue to measure changes in the region’s food system. Research activities will collect data from the same farmers, food buyers, and community decision-makers to provide a long-term perspective. Activities will also focus specifically on changes in food distribution systems – emerging systems and shifts in existing ones. Research will look at the capacity of a range of local food and farm events/activities to promote food democratization – increasing participation in the food system. The research team will also analyze existing data from ASAP’s farm-to-school program to understand the impact of farm-to-school strategies.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Continue long-term research with farmer, buyer, and decision-maker participants established in the first three year cycle. With farmers and buyers in particular we want to continue to document ways they are navigating and creating this emerging and shifting terrain – the opportunities and challenges they encounter, the decisions and innovations they employ in the context of shifting opportunities and constraints.
  2. Conduct a full analysis of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data for Western North Carolina (in comparison to 2002 and 2007 data)
  3. Expand research with the food industry in the region. Specifically conduct research on food distribution networks in the region (e.g., changes in existing food distribution channels to accommodate locally grown food and new channels emerging in connection with local farms and food).
  4. Conduct research with shoppers at farmers markets and with attendees of other food and farm events (e.g., farm tours, CSA fairs, food and farm conferences) to determine the impacts of these experiences on participants. Do these experiences help to promote 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?  
  5. 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.  
  6. Continue to 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.


What work has been accomplished to date?

Within the first three months of the project (Sept 1 – Dec 31), we accomplished the following:

  • Research planning. Developed a tentative research plan and timeline. Tentative plan is attached to this report. 
  • Conducted analyses of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data. Our analyses have looked at 2012 census data in conjunction with 2002 and 2007 data (in some cases going back to earlier census years). Examples of tables and graphs illustrating change over time are attached to this report.  
  • Drafted a manuscript describing our market count research and findings. We are looking at possible venues to publish including “Growing for Market.”
  • Began drafting a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Appalachian Studies; the article looks at changes in agriculture in Western North Carolina in relation to the tobacco buyout and to local food movement activities.
  • Assembled all of the surveys from ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program and began collating surveys (by audience and question category) for later (longitudinal) analysis.  
  • Conducted literature reviews around:
    • food democracy concept – identifying the fundamental elements of food system democracy and the process of democratization, including indicators and measures.
    • key arguments for and against local food system efforts – honing in on these key arguments/contentions to inform research that will examine their validity.

What work is left to do?

  • Submit IRB application for human subjects research activities.
  • Conduct interviews with the established farmer, buyer, and decision maker panels.
  • Continue to conduct analysis of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data.
  • Conduct research on food distribution networks in the region.
  • Plan and conduct research with attendees of farmers markets and of other local food and farm events and activities.
  • Continue collating the Growing Minds surveys and conduct an analysis.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our ongoing research with farmers and food industry buyers will continue to identify the innovative ways farmers and buyers are successfully navigating (as well as creating) the region’s emerging food system. Findings of the research will directly inform our extension activities with farmers, food industry buyers, and the public.

The findings of research on food distribution networks in the region (especially for-profit wholesale distributors and packers shifting their practices to accommodate more locally grown food and start-up food distribution businesses) will provide information on different models of local food distribution that are emerging in a context of increased demand. With increasing focus on local food distribution infrastructure in the movement nationally and specific interest in (and critique of) the nonprofit food hub model, the results of this research will highlight alternative models of local food distribution. The results will directly inform our extension activities with farmers and food businesses and our work to help communities outside our region develop viable local food/farm initiatives.

Our research with farmers market shoppers and with the attendees of other local food and farm linked events will evaluate the impact of different local food/farm experiences on participants’ views and actions. From a perspective that views food democratization (i.e., people actively participating to shape the food system) as crucial to food system change, our research across a diverse range of local food and farm venues will help us understand how these experiences are or are not contributing to this process. The research will directly inform our extension activities with farmers and the public and will be of interest to local food movement practitioners more broadly.

Our analysis of (multiple years of) data collected through ASAP’s Growing Minds farm to school work will provide insight into the significance of local food and farm based educational experiences for changing students (and their families) and staffs eating preferences and behaviors. The results will inform our ongoing work with teachers, students, cafeteria staffs, School Nutrition Directors, colleges and universities, and farmers (that serve schools or host school groups) and will have relevance to farm to school efforts nationally.


Katie Descieux
306 West Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Office Phone: 8282361282
Allison Perrett
306 West Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Office Phone: 8282361282