The evolution of a local food system: geo-social network analysis of local food routes in two counties over 5 years

Authors: Gwyneth McKee Manser*, University of California, Davis, Catherine Brinkley, University of California, Davis, Sasha Pesci, University of California, Davis
Topics: Food Systems
Keywords: social network analysis, food systems, peri-urban, local food systems, alternative food networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 8:40 AM / 9:55 AM
Room: Terrace, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Although local food systems are growing, relatively little is known about how those systems develop. Using social network analysis (SNA), this research asks how local, peri-urban food systems evolve with regard to food production and distribution routes. We built a dataset of over 1,000 farm-to-market connections in two counties (Baltimore, Maryland and Chester, Pennsylvania), and applied geo-social network analysis to understand how the architecture, magnitude, and spatiality of these local food networks have changed over a five year period, from 2012-2018. SNA is underpinned by the notion that phenomena is mainly created by relations, and the patterns of these relations. Although SNA is a widely used method across disciplines, its application to the understanding of local food systems is relatively novel. Our findings point to the particular attributes of local food system networks and the unique ways in which the structure of these networks shifts over time with regards to key system actors. We will also discuss the implications of this research on local land use decision making and food systems planning, as well as potential future areas of research based on our findings. This research builds on previous studies on peri-urban local food systems (Brinkley 2017, 2018; Trivette 2018) by exploring the interplay of immediate relationships around locally produced food sales, visits, and donations.

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