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The Experience of Farmers Participating in Food Value Chains: A Phenomenological Study from Southern Ontario.

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Title: The Experience of Farmers Participating in Food Value Chains: A Phenomenological Study from Southern Ontario.
Author: Korzun, Monika
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Program: Rural Studies
Advisor: Lauzon, Al
Abstract: One of the main criticisms of the industrial food system has been the complicated supply chains, which have added a large variety of actors, such as wholesalers and distributors that resulted in weaker local food systems. Under the industrial food system, farmers’ authority and decision making is limited, many farmers are isolated from market opportunities and farmers are perceived as interchangeable parts of the system. Direct marketing has often been promoted as the best alternative to the industrial distribution system. However, there have been numerous innovative entrepreneurs who do not fit in either the industrial or in direct marketing models. Food value chains (FVCs) provide farmers with a third option. FVCs are a potential response to the increasing demand for food that places value on quality, fair compensation to farmers and promoting environmental and social improvements. FVCs have been steadily increasing in Southern Ontario through online distribution channels, food box programs, online meal kits, small and alternative retails and mobile markets. Although some research has been done to demonstrate the benefits of FVCs on consumer satisfaction and on farmers’ economics, little qualitative research examining the motivations, opportunities and challenges of farmers participating in FVCs have been recorded. Utilizing phenomenology, in-depth interviews with farmers will identify reasons in participating in FVCs, their perceptions of opportunities and challenges and their opinions about the FVCs that generate social and environmental benefits in developing strong local food systems. Farmers’ experiences demonstrate there are two main motivations for participating in FVCs, which include financial and strategic. Farmers utilize several criteria to assess potential partners including appreciation for farmers’ work, knowledge of the farming sector, holding similar visions for the local food system, trustworthiness, and loyalty. Farmers participating in FVCs have identified marketing, personal relationships, and communication as opportunities. Challenges include consumer education, scale, elitism, and the prescriptions outlined by alternative food network literature. Farmers partaking in FVCs hold a unique experience and thereby provide a crucial perspective on the local food system and FVCs, which will critically contribute to those bodies of literature.
Date: 2020-05
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