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


  • Gina K Thornburg Department of Geography, Kansas State University, USA


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