Local food systems (LFSs) are complex and diverse social structures. The processes that influence the formation and evolution of LFSs are obscure, relatively uncoordinated, and somewhat mysterious. This study develops a stronger understanding of such processes through a qualitative exploration of the influence of routine practice work at the organization level on the entrepreneurial development of two distinct LFSs in the Southwest region of the United States: southeastern Arizona and Albuquerque−Santa Fe. We gathered data between August 2014 and September 2017 through semistructured interviews with and direct observations of 53 local food practitioners operating in one of the two LFSs. Theoretical principles of institutional entrepreneurship, embedded agency, and practice work guided the study. The findings reveal three forms of ingenuity (technological, organizational, policy) that regularly emerge through the day-to-day organization-level work of local food practitioners. We argue that the system-level influence of these forms, whether intentional or not, are indicators of the embedded agency of the practitioners and their capacities to serve as institutional entrepreneurs. We discuss implications for both practice and future research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science