Farm to Childcare: An Analysis of Social and Economic Values in Local Food Systems


  • Jacob C. Rutz North Carolina State University
  • J. Dara Bloom North Carolina State University
  • Michelle Schroeder-Moreno North Carolina State University
  • Chris Gunter North Carolina State University



Embeddedness, Marketness, Local Food Systems, Farm to Childcare, Case Study


Farm to institution is a component of the local food movement, representing the growing link between local producers and organizations like schools, prisons, and hospitals. These are organiza­tions that have concentrated buying power and thus a sizable influence on local food supply chains. Farm to childcare represents a next step in farm to institution, serving young children at the apex of their habit formation and biological devel­opment, and providing economic opportunities for local farmers. Using a qualitative case study meth­od­ology in one urban county in North Carolina, this paper asks the questions: (1) How do childcare centers, farmers, and distributors negotiate the tensions between social and financial values in the farm-to-childcare initiative? and (2) What strategies do these supply chain actors use to overcome bar­riers? Analyzing the perceptions of participation in a farm-to-child­care project of 11 childcare cen­ters, 11 farmers, and four distributors shows paral­lel values for children’s health and community con­nections to farmers actualized in the relation­ships and pur­chase of local foods. However, market-driven values and actions dominated the supply chain for all participants when business solvency seemed to be in opposition to central social com­mitments. Childcare centers and nonprofit distribu­tors sub­sidized local food purchases with inexpen­sive, nonlocal food and grant funding, respectively. Many farmers preferred expressing social values through noncommercial activities rather than sac­rificing economic viability to participate in socially oriented programs. This study suggests that achiev­ing the social goals of farm-to-childcare programs requires creative strategies, such as coordinating sales of smaller than Grade A produce, purchasing from multiple local sources, and aggregating demand from multiple centers.

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Author Biographies

Jacob C. Rutz, North Carolina State University

Farm to Childcare Farmer Liaison, Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences

J. Dara Bloom, North Carolina State University

Assistant Professor and Local Foods Extension Specialist, Department of Crop Science

Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, North Carolina State University

Professor, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, and Major Director and Assistant Director of Educational Programs for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Department of Horticulture Science

Chris Gunter, North Carolina State University

Vegetable Production Specialist and Professor, Department of Horticulture Science



How to Cite

Rutz, J. C., Bloom, J. D., Schroeder-Moreno, M., & Gunter, C. (2018). Farm to Childcare: An Analysis of Social and Economic Values in Local Food Systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(3), 23–39.



Open Call Paper