Local Motivations, Regional Implications: Scaling from Local to Regional Food Systems in Northeastern North Carolina


  • Gabriel Cumming Working Landscapes
  • Sophie Kelmenson University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9593-1259
  • Carla Norwood Working Landscapes




Regional Food Systems, Local Food Systems, Social Networks, Rural, Regional Planning, Scale, Collaboration, Stakeholder Engagement, Value Chains, Food Hubs


In communities across North America, organiza­tions have launched local food system initiatives as a response to the depredations of the globalized agri-food economy; however, they increasingly find that they cannot achieve their desired impacts or sustain their ventures by operating solely within their home communities. Consequently, they embark on regional food system development initiatives. Drawing upon the experiences of 41 organizations—including Working Land­scapes, a grassroots nonprofit that two authors of this paper direct—this paper examines emerging regional food initiatives in the rural, economically distressed region of northeastern North Carolina. We eluci­date characteristics that differentiate regional initia­tives from the same organizations’ local activities. We find that regional initiatives are motivated by organizations’ strategic needs, which are highly variable in spatial scale, largely uncoordi­nated with each other, and not yet successful in fully achieving their goals. Drawing upon this analysis, we identify opportunities to increase the effectiveness of regional food system initiatives by increasing shared understandings of these initia­tives and advancing region-scale planning.

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Author Biographies

Gabriel Cumming, Working Landscapes

Warrenton, NC

Sophie Kelmenson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Department of City and Regional Planning

Carla Norwood, Working Landscapes

Warrenton, NC

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How to Cite

Cumming, G., Kelmenson, S., & Norwood, C. (2019). Local Motivations, Regional Implications: Scaling from Local to Regional Food Systems in Northeastern North Carolina. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(A), 197–213. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2019.091.041