Farmer social connectedness and market access
A case study of personal networks among emerging farmers
Market access in the local food system of the American Midwest is largely predicated on key social and economic relationships. This study examines the personal networks of emerging farmers enrolled in an incubator farm training program. Drawing from social network and qualitative analysis the study findings yield insights into the relationship between social networks, market access, and financial sustainability among emerging farmers. Some farmers have highly dense support networks with many strong familial ties. Others have smaller support networks characterized by weaker and more sparse ties. Highly individualized farmer characteristics and aspirations are shown to greatly influence the building and maintaining of networks. Advice networks are demonstrated to affect market access, decision-making, and indicators for entrepreneurial success. Smaller advice networks of non–English speaking farmers demonstrate limited market access and access to information. This distinction is highlighted in the discussion of policy and agricultural development programs targeted toward emerging farmers.
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