Coping with Crisis: COVID-19’s Impact on Metro-Atlanta Alternative Farmers Open Access

Beling, Elizabeth (Spring 2021)

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In 2020, COVID-19 disrupted all spheres of human activity— including the food system. This paper discusses how alternative farmers in the Metro-Atlanta area were impacted by and forced to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, these farmers demonstrated resilience in the face of this disruption because of farmers’ ability to pivot markets, an influx in consumer demand, and an existing network of support systems made up of individuals and organizations in the Atlanta area. These findings suggest that there is resilience built into the Metro-Atlanta alternative food system that may be unique compared to the conventional food system. However, these findings also demonstrate major weak points in the resilience of these alternative farmers which may suggest that there are long-term concerns for alternative farmers’ ability to recover from future crises.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Research Questions 4

Literature Review 4

Trends Towards Industrial Agriculture and Challenges Within Agriculture 4

The Emergence and Characteristics of Alternative Food Systems 8

Table 1. Alternative Food Institutions (AFIs) 10

Table 2. Alternative Food Philosophies 13

Alternative Farming 16

Methods 17

Sampling 19

Results 20

Resilience Among Alternative Farmer 21

Ability of Alternative Farmers to Pivot Markets 23

Characteristics of Alternative Farmers that Permitted Shifts 26

Consumer Demand 28

Supports: Organizational, Farmer Support, Governmental 32

Support Between Farmers 32

Organizational Support 33

Gaps in Organizational Support 36

Governmental Support 37

Weak Points 38

Insecurity within the Alternative Food System 39

Pandemic Highlighting Uncertainty for the Future and Broader Food Systems Concerns 42

Discussion and Conclusion 44

References 47

Appendices: 58

Appendix A: Initial Contact Email 58

Appendix B: Interview Protocol and Informed Consent Discussion 59

Appendix C: Interview Questions for Farmers 63

Appendix D: Interview questions for organizational leaders 65

Appendix E: Participant Information 66

Table 3. Farm Characteristics 66

Table 4. Organizational Characteristics 70

Table 5. Farmer Sales Changes 71

Table 6. Demographic Characteristics (Race) 77

Table 7. Demographic Characteristics (Gender) 77

Appendix F: Codebook 79

Appendix G: Thematic Quotes 83

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