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Growing local food: scale and local food systems governance

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  • Phil Mount


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    “Scaling-up” is the next hurdle facing the local food movement. In order to effect broader systemic impacts, local food systems (LFS) will have to grow, and engage either more or larger consumers and producers. Encouraging the involvement of mid-sized farms looks to be an elegant solution, by broadening the accessibility of local food while providing alternative revenue streams for troubled family farms. Logistical, structural and regulatory barriers to increased scale in LFS are well known. Less is understood about the way in which scale developments affect the perception and legitimacy of LFS. This value-added opportunity begs the question: Is the value that adheres to local food scalable? Many familiar with local food discourse might suggest that important pieces of added value within LFS are generated by the reconnection of producer and consumer, the direct exchange through which this occurs, and the shared goals and values that provide the basis for reconnection. However, these assertions are based on tenuous assumptions about how interactions within the direct exchange produce value, and how LFS are governed. Examination shows that existing assumptions do not properly acknowledge the hybridity, diversity, and flexibility inherent in LFS. A clear analysis of the potential of scale in LFS will depend on understanding both how value is determined within LFS, and the processes through which these systems are governed. Such an analysis shows that, while scaled-up LFS will be challenged to maintain legitimacy and an identity as “alternative”, the establishment of an open governance process—based on a “negotiation of accommodations”—is likely to enhance their viability. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    Article provided by Springer & The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS) in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 107-121

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:29:y:2012:i:1:p:107-121
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-011-9331-0
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    1. Michael Carolan, 2006. "Social change and the adoption and adaptation of knowledge claims: Whose truth do you trust in regard to sustainable agriculture?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(3), pages 325-339, October.
    2. Roberta Sonnino & Terry Marsden, 2006. "Beyond the divide: rethinking relationships between alternative and conventional food networks in Europe," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 181-199, April.
    3. King, Robert P. & Hand, Michael S. & DiGiacomo, Gigi & Clancy, Kate & Gomez, Miguel I. & Hardesty, Shermain D. & Lev, Larry & McLaughlin, Edward W., 2010. "Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains," Economic Research Report 246989, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. John Smithers & Alun Joseph, 2010. "The trouble with authenticity: separating ideology from practice at the farmers’ market," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(2), pages 239-247, June.
    5. E. DuPuis & Sean Gillon, 2009. "Alternative modes of governance: organic as civic engagement," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 26(1), pages 43-56, March.
    6. Oliver Moore, 2008. "How embedded are organic fresh fruit and vegetables at Irish farmers' markets and what does the answer say about the organic movement? An exploration, using three models," International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 7(1/2), pages 144-157.
    7. Patricia Allen & Martin Kovach, 2000. "The capitalist composition of organic: The potential of markets in fulfilling the promise of organic agriculture," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 17(3), pages 221-232, September.
    8. Moya Kneafsey, 2010. "The region in food--important or irrelevant?," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 3(2), pages 177-190.
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