Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

David S. Conner


Alternative food systems (AFSs) are so defined because they purport to challenge a value or ameliorate a negative impact of the dominant conventional food system (CFS). Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are a type of AFS whose alterity is defined by socially proximal economic exchanges that are embedded in and regulated by social relationships. This relational closeness is argued to have benefits with respect to economic, environmental, and social sustainability. However, it would be a mistake to assume that AFSs and CFSs are paradigmatically differentiated or that their structures engender particular outcomes.

The first article traces a misguided attempt to find indicators of success for farms participating in short food supply chains. The effort was misguided, because in designing the original study there was an assumption that producers participating in these AFSs shared similar goals, values, and definitions of success. The true diversity of these variables was discovered through the analysis of eighteen semi-structured interviews with Burlington and Montpelier area farmers who participate in SFSCs. This diversity motivated an exploration of the origins, common applications, and recent academic skepticism regarding assumptions of the relationship between certain food systems structures and broader food systems outcomes.

The second article undertakes to develop a framework for exploring the actual motivations of SFSCs farmers and challenging common AFS assumptions. A framework that differentiates motivations guided by formal and substantive rationality is used to code the aforementioned data. Common themes amongst the responses are discussed demonstrating that producer motivations for participating in AFSs can be diverse, contradictory, and subject to change.



Number of Pages

135 p.

Included in

Sociology Commons