Applying concepts from the theory of complex adaptive systems, we investigated the emergence over time of a local foods system that embodies values of traditional agriculture and the preservation of the earth and its biodiversity, community, and equitable access to food. The purpose was to learn, from this place-based transformation, the process of self-organization that can underpin a transition from an unsustainable food system primarily based on values of wealth creation to one where resources are used in a sustainable manner.
The local foods system of Northeast Ohio was examined through interviews with key agents in the system at three points in time ranging from 2007 to 2016, and through the collection of archival data chronicling various aspects of the system. Qualitative data were coded and analyzed in a multi-dimensional manner that focused on variation and interaction (exchange of resources) of agents through time.
The system has evolved to be increasingly complex both in numbers and kinds of agents. Collective agency has enabled increased capacity in the system to address the diverse purposes of participants. Yet in this self-organizing system, securing resources for longer term, collective focuses required to advance the local food system has proved to be a challenge.
This longitudinal and qualitative approach shines a light on how common and diverse purposes shape the unfolding of complex social systems with expanded capabilities.
Mohrman, S.A., Parker, S.B., Palacpac, L.O. and Wilk, C. (2016), "The Emergence of a Local Foods Network in Northeast Ohio", Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry (Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 235-259. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2045-060520160000005018
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