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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Does it grow here?: the impact of local food systems on social capital in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys Elton, Chea


The purpose of this research was to understand the impact that local food systems have on community level social capital. Local food systems, inclusive of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs, have become increasingly prevalent and many communities are going forward with polices in support of local food provisioning (Winfree and Watson, 2017). However, the literature suggests the benefit of local food systems for communities is not well understood. In particular, little is known about the effect of these systems on community level social capital. Social capital refers to features of social life such as social networks, norms, and trust that facilitates cooperation between individuals and groups (Putnam, 1995). Building social capital is referenced as a potential benefit of local food systems because doing so enhances connections among participants which facilitates trust and cooperation. Understanding the connection between local food systems and social capital warrant further research because community level social capital influences community quality of life (Peters, 2017). This research was conducted in the Okanagan Bioregion of British Columbia with a case study of communities where local food movements have grown in prominence in recent years. An exploratory mixed methods case study approach (Yin, 2003) was employed to answer the research questions. Using a grounded theory approach to the data analysis (Glasser and Strauss, 1999) allowed for themes about the role of social capital in local food systems to inductively emerge. An extensive review and analysis of literature to ascertain conceptualizations of social capital facilitated creating a framework for observing social capital in the context of local food systems. An online survey among local food system actors clearly revealed that local food system actors attribute a considerable level of social capital to their participation in the local food system. In depth interviews revealed that they have social networks in their local food system and ‘meaningful places’ facilitate these social connections. This study strongly supports the idea that participating in local food systems expands community social capital through social networks as a consequence of sense of place and connection.

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