Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Lisa . Chase

Second Advisor

Jane . Kolodinsky


In response to trends that challenge food access, farmer livelihoods and public health, several market and social institutions have pursued the development of alternative food systems (AFS). These attempt to support the production and distribution of foods with important qualities, such as attention to specific growing practices, higher worker standards, superior product quality and taste, support for environmental health and farmer well-being (Valchuis et al. 2015). While there has been some success in these efforts, as evidenced by the growth of farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture programs, and farm-to-institution relationships, growth in direct to consumer markets has flattened in recent years (USDA 2012) and there are still many barriers that limit the efficacy and reach of AFS. Farmers and distributors are constantly innovating, trialing new ideas and re-thinking old ones in hopes of overcoming or circumventing these challenges.

The Farm Fresh Food Box (F3B) project is one such market innovation that hybridizes direct to consumer (DTC) and value chain models with the goal of expanding producer sales and improving rural food access. Researchers and extension professionals from University of Vermont, University of Washington, Evergreen State College, and University of California studied the efficacy of F3B as a potential food system innovation through an applied project in partnership with small farmers and retailers. Research efforts focused on understanding challenges and opportunities for success within the model, as well as gleaning fundamental take-aways to better inform the broader knowledge of the continuum between DTC and value chain distribution systems.

This thesis considers findings from the first half of this research project. The first article Farm Fresh Food Boxes: Pilot Study Findings of Farmer-Rural Retailer Partners assesses the pilot season of the project and identifies major challenges and associated learning opportunities, with a focus on implications for Extension personnel.The second article, Farm Fresh Food Boxes: Relationships in Value-Chain Partnerships, merges existing knowledge of strategies and barriers that characterize DTC with current understanding of value-chains to better understand the process of expanding into new consumer populations. This analysis focuses on how the quality of the relationship between producers and retailers impacts overall success when expanding into new or unusual venues. Unlike much of the previous value-chain research, this paper places unique emphasis on the importance of the farmer-retailer relationship.



Number of Pages

75 p.