Connecting New Farmers to Place, Agroecology, and Community through a Bilingual Organic Farm Incubator
Renewed public interest in the localized dimensions of food and farming systems offers opportunities for citizens to become more engaged in decision making about how their food is produced, distributed, and consumed, and, for all these actions, by whom. This paper explores an initiative designed to reinvigorate the production components of a place-based, regional food system through connecting diverse aspiring entrepreneurial farmers, nonprofit organizations, land grant university faculty, and food consumers around shared values. The characteristics that distinguish values-based food systems can be sets of values associated with environmentally sustainable production practices, the qualities of the food, the distribution of the food, and/or relationships with particular farmers and places (Ostrom, DeMaster, Noe, & Schermer, 2017). Based on interviews and participant observation, our participatory research with the Viva Farms bilingual farm incubator program explores the role of place, social, and environmental values, and social learning in launching an incoming generation of women, immigrant, and low-income farmers. These themes have not been previously explored in the literature in relation to the success of new entry farmer initiatives. As of 2016, six years into the program, our findings show that 77 percent of past program participants were still farming in the same region, using agroecological farming practices and employing place-based marketing strategies.
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