Initial social network analysis of producers working towards sustainability suggests weak ties and potential fragmentation
Keywords:regional food system, sustainable agriculture, sustainable production, resource sharing
For farmers to adopt and maintain sustainable farming practices, they must have the resources and network to succeed with this work and must realize a positive impact on their business model. As a food system is ultimately made up of the people, organizations, and institutions that grow, move, buy and sell food, we must understand who is at the center of this network, who is well-connected, and who is peripheral. Within a particular regional food system in a highly productive southeastern U.S. state, the network of local producers interested in sustainable production, including environmental and economic components, seems to be growing. However, it is unclear who benefits from this system and whether this system is growing in a way that encourages and enhances the benefits for sustainable agriculture. Existing evidence for the network size and its vulnerabilities has been anecdotal, from Extension agents and their contacts with individual producers, rather than based on systematic research. We used social network analysis to understand the status of the system and its constituents. Connections between producers appear to be weak overall with potential fragmentation, suggesting a fragility that could easily derail efforts to increase sustainable production in the region.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Kathryn A. Stofer, James Fulton, Heather Nesbitt, Anna Prizzia, Karen A. Garrett, Jhon Jarome Rosario
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Grant numbers Sustainable Community Innovation grant CS15-094