At Willamette University Dr. Chambers’ Sustainable Agriculture in the 21st Century class studied current challenges to food production and access and investigated the local food movement as a viable solution. Using three different perspectives of sustainability (economic, environment, and equity) as lenses to interpret peer-reviewed research on the local food movement and relevant data on the Willamette Valley the class determined the greatest challenges to the local food movement in this region.
Brief summaries from each of their perspectives are provided below. To read the students full analysis and recommendations for future research click on the associated links.
An Economic Perspective
Summary of Economic Challenges to the Local Food Movement in the Willamette Valley
- list item Current Agroeconomics: the local food movement appears to have a more communal focus than increasingly centralized industrial agriculture. In addition there is the challenge of consumers mentality of a right to cheap food. Challenges in trying to focus both on profit and the more holistic goals of the local food movement.
- list item Economics of Exports: exports reduce the availability of local food yet provide greater profits for local farmers. Challenges of the opportunity costs of switching existing profitable, often non-edible, export crop production to local food production.
- list item Economies of Scales: large commercial production benefits from subsidies that may deter a switch to local food production. In addition large farms do not appear to be conducive to the goals of the local food movement as expressed in the literature. Large farms also appear to have a comparative advantage in production at both a global and local level as well as benefiting from corporate marketing connections.
An Environmental Perspective
An Equity Perspective
After presenting each of the models the class worked to determine commonalities between the economic, environmental, and ethical perspectives as well as challenges, and recommendations for future research. The summary of our final considerations is included here: