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Mission‐Driven Intermediaries as Anchors of the Middle Ground in the American Food System: Evidence from Warrenton, NC

Tewari, Meenu, Kelmenson, Sophie, Guinn, Andrew, Cumming, Gabriel, Colloredo‐Mansfeld, Rudolph
Culture, agriculture, food and environment 2018 v.40 no.2 pp. 114-123
direct marketing, growers, industry, interviews, prices, roots, supermarkets, North Carolina
Moving beyond direct marketing, food systems work is increasingly connecting sustainably grown food with supermarkets, dining services, and other mainstream outlets. It is here that growers come face‐to‐face with the rigid conditions of a globalized food system. In this paper we document the emergence of mission‐driven intermediaries as bridging institutions in the middle spaces of American agriculture that are using value addition and strategic scaling up to connect alternative food systems to local and regional markets at profitable prices. Through in‐depth interviews with Working Landscapes of Warrenton, North Carolina, we describe one path to becoming a Mission‐Driven Intermediary, in which intermediaries with roots in the nonprofit sector evolve into organizations of hybrid form that include revenue‐generating activities. This institutional heterodoxy allows lateral alliances with diverse entities that help recombine existing resources in new ways, enabling the organization to demonstrate long‐term commitment to the local food project while successfully improvising to survive in a highly competitive and corporatized industry.