Nourishing Communities: Exploring the Relationships Between Local-Food-System Development and Community Capital
Courtney, A. Shannon
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Consumer concerns regarding food safety and quality, a crippling farm crisis across North America, and growing criticisms of the environmental consequences of intensive agricultural practices are leading to increased scrutiny of the dominant, industrialized food system. Faced with uncertainty, many communities are pioneering new, decentralized models of food production, with a view to designing systems that are more economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. At their essence, these local food systems appear to embody a new form of ‘capitalism’, one that values, depends upon, and seeks to strengthen or preserve all stocks of community capital: natural, human, social, and economic. Employing a case study approach, this research explores ways in which a local food system’s development depends upon the interplay of a community’s capital stocks, as well as ways in which a local food system may serve as a site for the creation or strengthening of these capital stocks, with a particular focus on social capital. The two communities studied are: Kingston, Ontario and Hardwick, Vermont. Both communities have been actively pursuing local-food system development through various initiatives. Face-to-face interviews, participant observations, and a review of written information served as the main sources of data for this study. A conceptual framework was also developed and served to guide the research, including the analysis of findings. Case study findings revealed the interdependent nature of community capital stocks, highlighting the importance of maintaining or enhancing all capital stocks over time. Social capital proved to be particularly integral to development efforts, with social networks sourcing economic and human capital for local-food system initiatives. Notably, many of the local-food initiatives carried out served to strengthen social and human capital, highlighting the potential for a restorative system. Overall, findings suggest that a more all-encompassing valuation of capital stocks is necessary to capture the ways in which a local-food system can contribute to community betterment and sustainability. It is anticipated that the case studies of Kingston and Hardwick will provide practitioners and scholars with insight regarding how community capital stocks are deployed and created through local-food initiatives.