Growing Local – Phase II

2015 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. 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?  
  4. 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.  
  5. 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.


In 2015 (January 1 – December 31), we accomplished the following:

  • Developed all research documents (interview and survey instruments, recruitment language, informed consent forms) and submitted the project application to UGA’s IRB
  • Conducted interviews with the farmer “panel”
  • Transcribed interviews (ongoing) and preliminary analysis
  • Disseminated some findings from farmer research. ASAP used the findings from farmer interview data to develop and conduct a workshop on “telling the farm story”
  • Collated and analyzed Growing Minds Farm to School data. An article for submission to the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition is in process.
  • Conduct literature searches and reviews around the concept of food democracy. Drawing on the literature, ASAP developed food system democratization indicators and measures
  • Developed questions to measure the capacity of local food and farm focused events and activities to promote food system democratization
  • Conducted surveys with participants of 2015 local food- and farm-focused events and activities including farm tours and farmers markets
  • Analyzed survey data
  • Executed the selection criteria to choose event attendees for in-depth follow-up interviews (in 2016)
  • Public dissemination of research. Beginning in November 2015, ASAP began producing a radio segment for WNCW (a regional public radio station) called Growing Local. Informed by our theory of change and food system democratization framework, Growing Local is intended to engage the listening audience more deeply in the workings of the local food system (and the issues that intersect with food production and distribution) through short format local food and farm stories (90 second spots and 4 minute spots) that feature the issues affecting our food system and people taking actions to change the food system. The show airs Monday mornings at 8:45am. Visit ASAP’s SoundCloud page to listen.
  • Contracted with a web developer to update our research page – to make it more navigable and user friendly.

Work left to do:

  • Analyze farmer interviews
  • Conduct interviews with buyer and decision maker panels
  • Conduct interviews with event attendees
  • Conduct surveys with attendees of 2016 local food and farm events and activities
  • Disseminate findings

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. Findings from the analysis of farmer interview data indicate the significance of “storytelling” for farmers’ capacities to meaningfully connect with a public interested in local farms and food and compete in an increasingly crowded and opaque market environment.  ASAP has used/is using this finding in farmer extension activities. For example, at ASAP’s recent Business of Farming Conference (attended by 200 farmers), one workshop was dedicated to helping farmers craft authentic farm stories.

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. Preliminary survey findings indicate that local food and farm focused events are promoting knowledge gain, information sharing, and social interaction – all foundations of increasing participation in the food system. The democratization research – the theory behind the significance of increasing food system participation for changing the food system, the indicators and measures for measuring the capacity of movement strategies and actions to facilitate food system democratization, the unique position of local food initiatives to promote this process – has significant implications for the strategies of local food system building efforts.

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. Preliminary results of data on Growing Minds@University (farm to school principles and practices that have been integrated into university education and nutrition curricula) show that the professional and personal practices of teachers and dieticians in training are impacted. Education and nutrition students are integrating farm to school activities in their teaching and dietetic internships; students have also noted how the Growing Minds@University program is impacting their diets (trying new foods) and shopping habits (purchasing more local foods) and is increasing their skills in educating children.


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