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Meenu Tewari, Sophie Kelmenson, Andrew Guinn, Gabriel Cumming, and Rudolph Colloredo-Mansfeld

Moving beyond direct marketing, food systems work is increasingly connecting sustainably grown food with supermarkets, dining services, and other mainstream outlets. It is here that growers come face-to-face with the rigid conditions of a globalized food system. In this paper we document the emergence of mission-driven intermediaries as bridging institutions in the middle spaces of American agriculture that are using value addition and strategic scaling up to connect alternative food systems to local and regional markets at profitable prices.

Through in-depth interviews with Working Landscapes of Warrenton, North Carolina, we describe one path to becoming a Mission-Driven Intermediary, in which intermediaries with roots in the nonprofit sector evolve into organizations of hybrid form that include revenue-generating activities. This institutional heterodoxy allows lateral alliances with diverse entities that help recombine existing resources in new ways, enabling the organization to demonstrate long-term commitment to the local food project while successfully improvising to survive in a highly competitive and corporatized industry. [Working Landscapes, local food systems, mission-driven intermediaries, supply chains]


Meenu Tewari is Associate Professor of Economic and International Development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sophie Kelmenson and Andrew Guinn are doctoral candidates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the City and Regional Planning Department. Gabriel Cumming, PhD, is Associate Director and co‐founder of Working Landscapes, a nonprofit rural development organization based in Warren County, North Carolina. Rudolph Colloredo‐Mansfeld is Professor of Anthropology and the Senior Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Global Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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