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Meeting in the Middle: Scaling‐up and Scaling‐over in Alternative Food Networks

Brislen, Lilian
Culture, agriculture, food and environment 2018 v.40 no.2 pp. 105-113
direct marketing, farmers, farms, interviews, local food systems, markets, motivation, supply chain, Southeastern United States
The “scaling‐up” of Alternative Food Networks (AFN) through food hubs and other values‐based supply chains has the potential to simultaneously serve the needs of mid‐sized farmers and expand the scope of AFN impact and access. This paper argues for greater consideration of the process and practice of scaling‐up as it applies to farmers transitioning into AFNs from conventional markets. Interviews with mid‐sized farmers from two food hubs in the Southeastern U.S. shows that food hub farmers consist of a mixture of new‐entrant farmers growing their farm enterprises from direct markets, and heritage (e.g., multi‐generational) farmers already engaged in large‐scale production who are scaling‐over to wholesale AFNs from traditional commodity production. Relative to first‐generation farmers, the larger scale heritage farmers have distinct motivations and challenges that vary along a number of dimensions of their personal and enterprise history. The paper concludes that by supporting the unique needs of mid‐sized farmers scaling‐over from conventional markets, Food Hubs can play a transformative role in the expansion of AFNs and thus the broader goal of transforming our food systems.