Economic, social and environmental issues have been linked to industrial agriculture, prompting public disapproval and demand for an alternative approach. This study investigates Local Roots, a for-profit local food cooperative, in an attempt to understand why participation in alternative food networks (AFNs) is increasing, how such participation meets both social and material needs of individuals, and what effects this might have on the larger community. To answer these questions I conducted twelve interviews with Local Roots founders, producers and volunteers, seven months of participant observation at Local Roots and a survey of customers. I found that Local Roots is both an economic and a social entity, which at times struggles to balance these two forces. The theorist Mark Granovetter describes this as social embeddedness and I apply his theory to my results. Through its social dimensions, the co-op aids in the development of personal relationships between members. The theorist Robert Putnam values such relationships because they increase social capital, or networks of connections between people. The social ties that Local Roots fosters impact the social and economic fabric of the Wooster community. There is room for further investigation into the various structures of AFNs and the degrees to which they influence their communities.


Matsuzawa, Setsuko


Sociology and Anthropology


Growth and Development | Other Anthropology


Social Capital, Social Embeddedness, Alternative Food Network, AFN, Food Hub, Local, Agriculture, Cooperative, Anthropology, Economic Sociology, Marketness, Instrumentalism, Sustainable

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Natalie D. Kahn