Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 608–622 | Cite as

Toward resilient food systems through increased agricultural diversity and local sourcing in the Carolinas

  • Janet MacFall
  • Joanna Massey Lelekacs
  • Todd LeVasseur
  • Steve Moore
  • Jennifer Walker


Biological and agricultural diversity are connected to food security through strengthened resilience to both anthropogenic and natural perturbations. Increased resilience to stress via increased biodiversity has been described in a number of natural systems. Diversity in food production can be considered on the following three levels: (a) genetic diversity as reflected in the range of cultivars which can be selected for production; (b) species diversity, captured through production of a wide range of crops on each farm; and (c) broad ecosystem diversity, described by the diversity of production between farms and within the broader food system. A network of locally based food producers and entrepreneurs provides opportunity for high diversity at each network stage, with increased adaptive capacity and the ability for rapid response to disturbance. We argue that production techniques that use carefully planned diverse plantings, such as biointensive cultivation, increase resilience by increased water use efficiency, yield and nutrient retention while reducing pressure from pests and pathogens. We present a model for a diverse, distributed food system in the North Carolina Piedmont and analyze an existing distributed network by a food hub in South Carolina. Through these models, we argue that a shift in the food network has the potential to increase local food security by having food more reliably available where it is needed and by contributing to local resilience through community economic development. The shift in food production and distribution systems serves multiple goals: When crop loss occurs, other crops still contribute to overall harvest, reducing net loss. Diverse on-farm production can support a more distributed network of food aggregators, processors, and markets than the current approach of large-scale consolidation. Finally, a distributed food supply network supported with diverse agricultural products can increase resilience by providing access to diversified markets for producers and improved food access to consumers with more food choices, while expanding the need for skilled jobs supporting the regionally based food industry.


Food resilience Biointensive Food hub Food network Organic Agricultural biodiversity Food security Agricultural security Agricultural resilience 


  1. Altieri MA (1999) The role of ecological biodiversity in agroecosystems. Agric Ecostem and Envir 74:19–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Phytopathological Society, Historical Perspectives of Plant Diseases. Web page accessed April, 2015.
  3. Bagchi R, Gallery S, Gripenberg SJ, Gurr L, Narayan CE, Addis RP, Freckleton T, Lewis OT (2014) Pathogens and insect herbivores drive rainforest plant diversity and composition. Nature advance onlineGoogle Scholar
  4. Bomford MK (2009) Do tomatoes love basil but hate Brussels sprouts? Competition and land-use efficiency of popularly recommended and discouraged crop mixtures in biointensive agriculture systems. J of Sust Agric 33(4):396–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruno HR, Hossfeld L (2009) Southeastern North Carolina Food System Project: an assessment of market opportunities and limited resource farmers in S.E. North Carolina. Final Report. Accessed May, 2015.
  6. Buckner Lab for Maize Genetics and Diversity (2014) U.S. Department of Agriculture Lab with Cornell’s Institute for Genomic Diversity. Accessed August, 2014
  7. Center for Environmental Farming Systems (2013) North Carolina Local Food Infrastructure Inventory. Accessed July 10, 2014
  8. Center for Environmental Farming Systems (2014a) NC growing together: connecting local foods to mainstream markets. Accessed August, 2014
  9. Center for Environmental Farming Systems (2014b) 10 % building North Carolina’s local food economy. Accessed February 2014
  10. Coastal Conservation League (2014) Welcome to the Coastal Conservation League. Accessed January 2014
  11. Connell J H (1971) On the role of natural enemies in preventing competitive exclusion in some marine animals and in rain forest trees. Dynamics of Populations. D. B. P.J. and G. Gradwell: 298–312Google Scholar
  12. Cooperband L (2002) Building soil organic matter with organic amendments. Center for integrated agricultural systems. accessed May, 2015
  13. Curtis J, Creamer N, Thraves TE. (2010) From farm to fork: a guide to building North Carolina’s sustainable local food economy, a Center for Environmental Farming Systems report, Raleigh, NC. Accessed Feb., 2014
  14. D’Haene K (2012) An indicator for soil physical quality in integrated sustainability models. Arch of Agron and Soil Sci 58:S66–S70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Di Ponti T, Fijk B, van Ittersum MK (2012) The crop yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture. Agric Syst 208:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fischer J, Lindenmayer DB, Manning AD (2006) Biodiversity, ecosystem function, and resilience: ten guiding principles for commodity production landscapes. Frontiers in Ecol and the Envir 4:80–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fitter AN., Gilligan CA, Hollingsworth K, Kleczkowski A, Twyman RM, Pitchford JW. (2005) Biodiversity and ecosystem function in soil. Funct Ecol 19(3):369–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Folke C, Carpenter RS, Walker B, Scheffer M, Elmqvist T, Gunderson L, Holling S (2004) Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Ann Rev of Ecol and Evol Syst 35:557–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Folke C, Carpenter RS, Walker B, Scheffer M, Chapin T, Rockstromg R (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecol and Soc 15:20 accessed August, 2014
  20. Food Research and Action Center. (2015) How hungry is America. accessed April, 2015.
  21. Forter SA., Freyer A, Mitchell T, Schoenbach S. (2013) The State of Working North Carolina 2013. Retrieved February, 2014, 2014, from
  22. Gaiero J, McCall C, Thompson K, Day N, Best A, Dunfield K (2013) Inside the root microbiome: bacterial root endophytes and plant growth promotion. Amer J Bot 100(9):1738–1750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grow Biointensive. (2014). Ecology action, one earth, many gardens. Retrieved May, 2014, 2014,
  24. Gunderson LH (2000) Ecological resilience—in theory and application. Ann Rev of Ecol and Evol Syst 31:25–439Google Scholar
  25. Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2001) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. D.C., Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  26. Gunderson LH, Pritchard L (2002) Resilience and the behavior of large scale systems. D.C., Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hadar Y, Papadopoulou KK (2012) Suppressive composts: microbial ecology links between abiotic environments and healthy plants. Ann Rev of Phytopath 50:133–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hendrickson M, Heffernen WD (2002) Opening spaces through relocalization: locating potential resistance in the weaknesses of the global food system. Sociologia Ruralis 42:347–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hinrichs CC (2002) The practice and politics of food system localization. J of Rural Stud 19(1):33–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holley J (2012) Network Weaver Handbook: a guide to transformational networks. OH, Network Weaver Publishing, AppalachianGoogle Scholar
  31. Izumi BT, Wright W, Hamm MW (2010) Market diversification and social benefits: motivations of farmers participating in farm to school programs. J of Rural Stud 26(4):374–382. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.02.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Janzen DH (1970) Herbivores and the number of tree species in tropical forests. Amer Nat 104:501–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jarosz L (2008) The city in the country: growing alternative food networks in Metropolitan areas. Journal of Rur Stud 3:231–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jeavons JC (2001) Biointensive sustainable mini-farming I: the challenge. J of Sust Agric 19:49–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jeavons JC (2006) How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine. CA, Ten Speed Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  36. Kerkhoff J, Enquist BJ (2007) The implications of scaling approaches for understanding resilience and reorganization in ecosystems. BioScience 57(6):489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kinkel LL, Bakker MG, Schlatter MG (2011) A coevolutionary framework for managing disease-suppressive soils. Ann Rev of Phytopath 49:47–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Levings III CL (1990) The Texas cytoplasm of maize: cytoplasmic male sterility and disease susceptibility. Science 250:942–947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Low SA, Vogel S(2011) Direct and intermediate marketing of local foods in the United States. Economic Research Report No. 128. Accessed May, 2014
  40. Marten GG., Atalan-Helicke N. (2015) Introduction to the Symposium on American Food Resilience. J Environ Stud Sci doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0310-4 Google Scholar
  41. Martinez SW, Zering K (2004) Pork quality and the role of market organization, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Social Science Research Network. Accessed March, 2014.
  42. Mendes R, Kruijt M, de Bruijn K, Dekkers E, van der Voort M, Schneier J, Piceno Y, DeSantis TZ, Andersen G, Bakker P, Raaijmakers J (2011) Deciphering the rhizosphere microbiome for disease-suppressive bacteria. Science 332(6033):1097–1100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mission 2014. (2014) Mission 2014: Feeding the world. Organic industrial agriculture. Accessed May, 2015. Scholar
  44. Moore SR (2010) Energy efficiency in small-scale biointensive organic onion production in Pennsylvania, USA. Renewable agric and food syst 25(03):181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moretti E (2010) Local multipliers. The Amer Econ Rev 100(2):373–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morgan K, Marsden T, Murdoch J (2006) Worlds of food: place, power and provenance in the food chain. N.Y., Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Mori JS.,Furukasa T, Sasaki T (2013) Response diversity determines the resilience of ecosystems to environmental change. Biol Rev Cambridge Phil Soc 88(2):349–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. North Carolina Farm to School Program. Accessed May 2014. from
  49. National Pork Board (2014) PEDV Research. Retrieved April, 2014, 2014, from
  50. Page S (2007) The difference: how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and societies. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  51. Perrings C, Jackson L, Bawa K, Brussaard L, Brush S, Gavin T, Papa R, Pascual U, DeRuiter P (2006) Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes: saving natural capital without losing interest. Cons Biol 20:263–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Petermann JS, Fergus AJF, Turnbull LA, Schmid B (2008) Janzen-Connell effects are widespread and strong enough to maintain diversity in grasslands. Ecol 89(9):2399–2406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Peterson G, Allen CR, Holling CS (1998) Ecological resilience, biodiversity and scale. Ecosystems 1(1):6–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Piedmont Together. (2013) Community choices, regional solutions. Retrieved February, 2014, 2014, from
  55. Schumann G (1991) Plant diseases: their biology and social impact. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MNGoogle Scholar
  56. Seufert V, Ramankutty N, Foley JA (2012) Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature. 485:229–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stevenson GW, Hoang H, Schwartz JS, Burrough EB, Sun D, Madson D, Cooper VL, Pillatzki A, Gauger P, Schmitt BJ, Koster LG, Killian ML, Yoon KJ (2013) Emergence of Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the United States: clinical signs, lesions and viral genomic sequences. J of Vet Diagnostic Invest. doi: 10.1177/1040638713501675 Google Scholar
  58. Swenson D (2007) Determining the methods for measuring the economic and fiscal impacts associated with organic crop conversion in Iowa. Aldo Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University. March. Accessed September 13, 2014
  59. Terborgh J (2012) Enemies maintain hyperdiverse tropical forests. Amer Nat 79(3):303–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. The North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development. (2007) State of the North Carolina Workforce: an assessment of the State’s Labor Force Demand and Supply 2007–2017. Accessed May, 2014
  61. Thrupp LA (2000) Linking agricultural biodiversity and food security: the valuable role of agrobiodiversity for sustainable agriculture. Inter Affairs 76:275–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tomimatsu H, Sasaki T, Kurokawa H, Bridle JR, Fontaine C, Kitano J, Stouffer DB, Vellend M, Bezemer TM, Fukami T, Hadly EA, Heijden M, Kawata M, Kéfi S, Kraft N, McCann K, Mumby P, Nakashizuka T, Petchey O, Romanuk T, Suding K, Takimoto G, Urabe J, Yachi S (2013) Sustaining ecosystem functions in a changing world: a call for an integrated approach. J of App Ecol 50:1124–1130Google Scholar
  63. U.S. Census Bureau (2014) State and County Quick Facts. Accessed July, 2014
  64. U.S. Department of Agriculture (2004) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, North Carolina: population profile, transportation and marketing, Accessed May, 2015 = STELPRDC5058244&acct = stmktprfl
  65. U.S. Department of Agriculture (2010) Getting to scale with regional food hubs. Accessed July, 2014.
  66. U.S. Department of Agriculture (2014) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Census of Agriculture. Accessed July, 2014
  67. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2015) Regulatory definitions of large CAFOs, medium CAFOs and small CAFOs. Access May, 2015
  68. Vogt RA, Kaiser LL (2008) Still a time to act: a review of institutional marketing of regionally-grown food. Agric and Human Values 25(2):241–255. doi: 10.1007/s10460-007-9106-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walker J (2014) Planning for a networked produce storage and aggregation system for the Piedmont Region. Piedmont Together. Greensboro, NC.
  70. Woodleaf Farm (2014) Accessed July, 2014
  71. Wright SJ (2002) Plant diversity in tropical forests: a review of mechanisms of species coexistence. Oecologia 130:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet MacFall
    • 1
  • Joanna Massey Lelekacs
    • 2
  • Todd LeVasseur
    • 3
  • Steve Moore
    • 1
  • Jennifer Walker
    • 4
  1. 1.Elon University Center for Environmental StudiesElonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Environmental Farming SystemsRaleighUSA
  3. 3.College of CharlestonCharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Poiesis Design and Planning, LLCDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations