Title

Connecting New England Farmers to Large Retailers Via Values-Based Supply Chains

Date of Award

Summer 2022

Project Type

Thesis

Program or Major

Nutritional Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Analena Bruce

Second Advisor

Isaac Sohn Leslie

Third Advisor

Clare Hinrichs

Abstract

As U.S. consumer interest in locally and regionally produced food increases, so must corresponding market pathways. While demand for differentiated, place-identified food items is demonstrated at both consumer and retail levels, current market structures are ill equipped to meet this demand. Midsized farms or those most suited to produce at volumes large enough to fulfill retail demand but still able to meet consumer demand for differentiated products, struggle to maintain viability given their lack of appropriate market access. Researchers have identified values-based supply chains as a market-based approach for leveraging the pre-existing market infrastructure of large retail supermarkets to support market access for midsized farms. However, research-based knowledge of grounded, practicable strategies to reify this potential solution is very limited. This study uses a qualitative approach based on 22 interviews with producers, intermediaries, retailers, and key informants engaged in values-based supply chains across the New England region. My primary goal was to understand how the actors involved in values-based supply chains are enacting the values prioritized by these supply chains. I present an analysis of the value-sharing strategies used by actors across these supply chains and identify the mechanisms by which these values are applied. I find that adjusting the retail market structure to handle differentiated food products from a higher number of smaller scale producers rather than a small number of very large producers introduces complexities and challenges that may result in inefficiencies. However, the actors involved in these values-based supply chains have developed strategies for cooperation to overcome some of these challenges. I identified cooperation strategies in three areas: (1) risk sharing, (2) improvements in physical infrastructure, and (3) improvements in informational infrastructure, that may provide opportunities for small and midsized producers to successfully participate in retail market.

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