Embeddedness, Marketness, and Economic Instrumentalism in the Oklahoma Farm-to-School Program

Gina K Thornburg


U.S. farm-to-school (FTS) projects and programs promote the incorporation of
locally or regionally produced food, primarily fresh fruits and vegetables, in the
National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a feeding program that relies on federal
reimbursements and long, industrialized supply chains. FTS encourages the
formation of hybrid agrifood networks that utilize shortened supply chains. This
research builds upon and expands current FTS research because it examines the
experiences, motivations, practices, and perceptions of farmers in a U.S. state in
which FTS is facilitated by a state law. The state's promotion of FTS has reached
many Oklahoma farmers through meetings with the program administrator. Some
farmers have chosen to participate, while others have not. Differences in the scale
of farming operations may be important in this choice. The perspectives and
experiences of Oklahoma farmers vis-à-vis the state's FTS program reveals
structural incompatibilities between the NSLP and FTS programs, particularly for
small-scale producers. Employing the concepts of embeddedness, marketness, and
economic instrumentalism, this study analyzes Oklahoma's FTS actor networks
within the overarching political economy of the NSLP. It integrates literatures from
alternative agrifood geographies, the sociology of agriculture, and school nutrition.
Preliminary results are presented from fieldwork conducted in fall 2011 and fall
2012. Full analyses of the data will appear in future publications.
Key words: farm-to-school programs, National School Lunch Program, Oklahoma
Farm-to-School Program, embeddedness, marketness, economic instrumentalism

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.