Educator and Institutional Entrepreneur: Cooperative Extension and the Building of Localized Food Systems

  • Rebecca Dunning North Carolina State University
  • Nancy Creamer North Carolina State University
  • Joanna Massey Lelekacs North Carolina State University
  • John O'Sullivan Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Cooperative Extension Service
  • Tes Thraves Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina State University
  • Teisha Wymore Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina State University
Keywords: Community Engagement, Community Food Systems, Cooperative Extension Service, Diffusion, Institutional Change, Institutional Entrepreneur, Interviews, Local Food Systems, Networks, North Carolina

Abstract

Cooperative Extension Service educators work within an established network of offices throughout the United States and have the potential to tap both structural and relationship networks to foster collaboration and catalyze institutional change in food systems. The prerequisites and processes to generate systemic change, however, challenge the established logic of information transfer that has dominated Extension Service practice. This paper considers the nature of Extension's engagement in food systems both conceptually and in practice, based on a two-year train-the-trainer professional development project in North Carolina designed to support the emergence of local food systems. Extension initiatives are examined in light of two social change models: diffusion of innovations, based on knowledge transfer and spatial diffusion; and institutional change, based on inter-organizational relationships and mutually held cultural understandings. We suggest that the work of food systems change is more usefully viewed through an institutional lens, with extension educators serving as "institutional entrepreneurs" to address and leverage the concerns of the communities in which they are embedded into lasting food system change.

Author Biographies

Rebecca Dunning, North Carolina State University
Center for Environ­mental Farming Systems; 226 Kilgore Hall, Box 7609; Raleigh, North Carolina 27695 USA.
Nancy Creamer, North Carolina State University
Professor, Department of Horticultural Science; Director, Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
Joanna Massey Lelekacs, North Carolina State University
Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University.
John O'Sullivan, Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Cooperative Extension Service
Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Tes Thraves, Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina State University
Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University.
Teisha Wymore, Center for Environmental Farming Systems; North Carolina State University
Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Published
2012-11-06
How to Cite
Dunning, R., Creamer, N., Lelekacs, J., O’Sullivan, J., Thraves, T., & Wymore, T. (2012). Educator and Institutional Entrepreneur: Cooperative Extension and the Building of Localized Food Systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(1), 99-112. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.031.010