Local Food Movement and Sustainable Community Building in Seattle

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 61
Oral Presentation
Kazumi KONDOH , Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Lucas PATZEK , WSU Extension, Thurston County, Washington State University, Olympia, WA
A growing number of consumers are demanding alternatives to the globalized, industrialized agro-food system that foster and rely upon social relations embedded in a particular place.  The food localization movement is an unmistakable feature of the urban corridors of the U.S., where direct farmer-to-consumer relationships are becoming increasingly common. For instance, there has been a 4.6-fold increase in the number of farmers markets across the U.S. between 1994 and 2013. In 2007, more than 12,500 U.S. farms reported marketing products using the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) model.

This article examines the development and current state of the local food movement in the Seattle metropolitan area of Washington State. We are particularly interested in the roles that different actors play, and how these actors formed connections with one another as the local food system developed across this region. We also examine the positive effects that emerged from food system efforts, the challenges that were overcome and those which were not, and the emerging challenges and needs. We pay close attention to how low-income residents and ethnic minorities participated in and benefited from local food system development efforts. Data are derived from interviews with local farmers, retailers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government officials conducted between 2011 and 2012. Government statistics and documents, and other archival materials were also collected and analyzed.

Overall, our preliminary findings suggest that a local food policy initiative in Seattle helped not only promote local food consumption and support local farmers, but also provided opportunities to connect various actors in the food system. What is particularly noteworthy is that local food networks connected actors belonging to traditionally different sectors, and with a regulatory schema for the sale of local foods, the localization movement became in many ways institutionalized allowing for accelerated movement toward urban sustainability.