Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Hudspeth, Thomas


Food systems are inherently complex areas of interaction between economic, environmental, and social factors. The local food movement in Vermont presents new opportunities to shape the local and regional food systems according to the values of stakeholders. In order to create the spaces necessary for reflexivity and ethical concerns it is necessary to understand food system stakeholder values. Through coding interviews with 17 stakeholders, the study identified values of producers, processors, chefs, food purchasers, distributors, advocates, state agencies, and other stakeholders. The five most commonly cited, strongly felt stakeholder values in the Vermont-regional food system were: promotion of the local food economy, financial viability, environmental integrity, community wellbeing, and quality of service or product. Understanding these values was central to the second portion of this research, which addressed the need to communicate information about the Vermont-regional food system. Indicators were selected as the most appropriate tool for this task, specifically because indicators have proven to be useful tools for communicating information in complex systems. Indicators also allow information about these systems to be framed by stakeholders, who are often the end users of the information as well. The methodology of this research was designed to integrate stakeholder and expert feedback to produce a robust and defensible indicator set tailored to the environmental, social, and economic context of the Vermont-regional food system. Each of the five most common stakeholder values were assigned three proposed indicators (condition, pressure, policy response) in order to describe critical dimensions of the food system. Finally, data behind the indicators were compiled to show trends in the Vermontregional food system related to sustainability. Areas of missing data were identified to show what information is still needed in the Vermont-regional food system in order for this system to more towards sustainability.