Agronomy and Horticulture Department





Date of this Version



Sustainability 2018, 10, 4813


© 2018 by the authors.

Open access



There is an expanding interest in Local Food Systems (LFSs) in Vermont, along with a growing effort to create adaptive governance to facilitate action. In this case study, we investigate how adaptive governance of LFS can provide ideas and act as a catalyst for creating resilience in other social-ecological systems (SESs). By participating in meetings and interviewing stakeholders inside and outside the Vermont LFS network, we found that consumers were highly motivated to participate by supporting environmental issues, the local economy, and interactive communities, as well as building social relationships. Farmers experienced better income and increased respect in the local community. All participants found adequate “safe space” to share new ideas and explore partnerships. Their identities and values were also place-specific, reflecting the working landscape of Vermont. Adaptive governance was built on equal partnerships, where problems were discussed and responsibilities were shared among many stakeholders across geographic areas and multiple sectors. Some skepticism was expressed towards mainstreaming local food production and sales. Challenges remain to more fully include farmers, for-profit players, and low-income consumers in the network. This might limit the resilience and sustainability of the LFS. Because SESs are held together by common culture and identities, the risk of non-adaptive social patterns exemplifies one key challenge for future adaptive management towards resilient and sustainable outcomes. There is a critical need for developing relevant theory and conducting further research on LFSs and their potential roles in local SESs.