Sustainable cities and local food systems : a partnership between restaurants and farms in Portland, Oregon

Taylor, Ashley Kaarina (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Local food systems are growing in scope and impact in communities around the world in an attempt to solve many of the environmental, social, and economic costs of global food production and conventional food chains. Communities may attain greater sustainability by reconfiguring their relationship to agriculture and food but critics of local food systems doubt its ability to fundamentally change the predominant global agricultural system due in part to the limited transformative range. Furthermore, local food systems are often viewed in reference to “food miles”, a concept that is oversimplified and ignores the complexity of food supply chains. This paper is motivated by these larger debates about local food systems and addresses a local food system in Portland, Oregon. The research for this paper is based on interviews conducted in the restaurant and farming sectors in the Portland area in an effort to learn what motivates restaurants and farms to engage in local partnerships, the challenges and opportunities they face selling and buying local food, and the practices along their food supply chains. The objective of this study is to understand the degree to which restaurant farm partnerships in Portland are supporting a sustainable local food system and to help identify strategies and opportunities for more restaurants and farms to engage in local partnerships. Furthermore, this research provides pragmatic examples for other communities interested in stimulating a local food system based on direct marketing. The findings of this study suggest Portland’s restaurant farm partnerships are making a small, yet significant effort to encourage innovative environmental and social practices, address the sustainability of urban and rural Portland, and deepen the food miles debate. Further efforts need to be made by the restaurant farm partnerships in Portland to expand on restaurant’s sustainable practices, find more innovative transportation means, and improve consumer education.

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