Team: James Farmer (lead), Analena Bruce, Peter Todd, Jennifer Robinson, Stephanie Dickinson, Daniel Knudsen, Julia Valliant, Stacey Giroux, Brad Fulton, Angela Babb, Jodee Ellett, New Faculty Lines, Research Scientists, and Post Doctoral Scholars.
Importance of Site: Indiana exemplifies the predominant agricultural system in the U.S. Midwest Corn Belt that emphasizes production of a few commodity crops in a heavily mechanized system dependent on fossil fuels, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and economies of scale. The state illustrates challenges and opportunities of rebuilding food production on local/regional scales, as a growing sector of farms and community food initiatives are working to resurrect food processing and aggregation infrastructure that has been lost and to increase the availability of fresh foods through alternative food networks.
Site Description: Indiana's agricultural landscape is dominated by commodity production (corn, soybean, and wheat), with little production of edible food crops. While Indiana is the tenth largest agricultural producing state in the U.S., only a fraction of the $16 billion Hoosiers spend on food annually goes to Indiana-grown products (Meter 2012). Indiana's agricultural system contributes substantially to the pollution of watersheds and has greatly reduced biodiversity, thereby increasing Indiana's vulnerability to environmental change and market shocks. Commodity crop production is often insufficient to support farm households, increasing farmers' dependence on federal commodity and crop insurance programs, and the decline of farming as a viable livelihood (Hendrickson 2015). Nonetheless, signs of alternative food networks have emerged and are expanding.
Data Collection Approach/Methods: The Indiana case study will focus on the redevelopment of regional/local food systems at four sites: Southwest Indiana, East-Central Indiana, Central Indiana, and Northwest Indiana. Research methods will include archival (web scraping), qualitative, quantitative, and geospatial methods to address these questions (Creswell & Clark 2007; Brondizio & Van Holt 2014). Phase 1 will focus on the decision-making process amongst consumers, with specific attention given to foods produced/distributed both locally and regionally. We will collect data from consumers using structured surveys, conduct focus group interviews, and conduct archival research by web scraping Twitter feeds and Facebook posts related to food systems issues (Brown & McCarty, 2017), in each of the four Indiana case sites. Phase 2 will center on key informant interviews with critical stakeholders engaged in food system development projects to better understand how context and community characteristics explain divergent outcomes. Phase 3 will use archival research and key informant interviews to ascertain past, current, and new processing, aggregation, and distribution systems vital to food system development. Phase 4 will use surveys and focus group interviews to understand farmer decision-making, motivations, and barriers surrounding local and regional food system development through product, distribution, and farm management diversification. Finally, Phase 5 will synthesize and analyze data from phases 1-4, using the SES framework, in order to assess how the normative, instrumental, and institutional variables are affecting food system development, outcomes, and governance. We will use a modified Dillman Tailored Design Method for collecting survey data (Dillman et al. 2014), and follow established qualitative interview and focus group methods (Weiss 1995; Bernard 2011). The capacity provided by the translation and outreach specialist will be noted as one condition change in research procedures to identify shifting food system development, food availability/access, behavioral changes, and nutritional and environmental health outcomes over time.