Local Motivations, Regional Implications: Scaling from Local to Regional Food Systems in Northeastern North Carolina
In communities across North America, organizations have launched local food system initiatives as a response to the depredations of the globalized agri-food economy; however, they increasingly find that they cannot achieve their desired impacts or sustain their ventures by operating solely within their home communities. Consequently, they embark on regional food system development initiatives. Drawing upon the experiences of 41 organizations—including Working Landscapes, a grassroots nonprofit that two authors of this paper direct—this paper examines emerging regional food initiatives in the rural, economically distressed region of northeastern North Carolina. We elucidate characteristics that differentiate regional initiatives from the same organizations’ local activities. We find that regional initiatives are motivated by organizations’ strategic needs, which are highly variable in spatial scale, largely uncoordinated with each other, and not yet successful in fully achieving their goals. Drawing upon this analysis, we identify opportunities to increase the effectiveness of regional food system initiatives by increasing shared understandings of these initiatives and advancing region-scale planning.
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