Eight Qualities of Resilient Food Systems: Toward a Sustainability/Resilience Index


  • James Worstell Delta Land & Community
  • John Green University of Mississippi




Agroecosystems, Food Systems, Resilience, Sustainability, Self-Organization


The concept of ecological resilience fills lacunae in sustainability. Solving the world’s wicked problems is undermined by the fact that defining sustaina­bility itself is a wicked problem. Traditionally, sustainability is defined by a focus on social, economic, and environmental criteria. In contrast, the ecological resilience perspective on sustaina­bility focuses on continuing adaptation and inno­vation of complex adaptive systems rather than any evaluation criteria. Prominent among the qualities enabling such resilience is local self-organization. Locally self-organized processing and marketing has long been recognized as a crucial component of sustainable agricultural systems. Ecological resilience research focuses on understanding qualities such as the local self-organization necessary for systems to withstand and overcome disturbances (for example, climate change). This study seeks to determine the common qualities of such resilient locally organized food systems and compare them with those proposed by the most prominent resilience frameworks in the literature. Our case studies of resilient food systems in recalcitrant areas of the U.S. South result in eight common qualities that are consistent with the most prominent frameworks. This study is part of a long-term effort to define qualities of ecologically resilient systems that are universal across as many scales as possible. Toward that end, this article discusses those eight qualities in order to lay a foundation for future establishment of quantitative indicators and thus form a sustainability/resilience index (SRI). Such a quantitative index enables investi­gation of the relationships between agricultural system resilience and economic and social demographic indicators.


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Author Biographies

James Worstell, Delta Land & Community

Delta Land & Community; 920 Highway 153; Almyra, Arkansas 7200

John Green, University of Mississippi

Center for Population Studies; 302 Leavell Hall; University of Mississippi; University, Mississippi 38677



How to Cite

Worstell, J., & Green, J. (2017). Eight Qualities of Resilient Food Systems: Toward a Sustainability/Resilience Index. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 7(3), 23–41. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2017.073.001