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Keywords:

  • agricultural systems;
  • ecological systems;
  • food systems;
  • community resilience;
  • sustainability

Abstract

Alternative agricultural systems that emphasize ecological and community resilience provide a bridge between traditional agriculture and natural resource management. These can be referred to as agri-ecological systems and include systems such as Organic Agriculture, Biodynamics, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Permaculture, Farmers Markets and Community Gardens. This paper reports on current research by the author to explore a range of these systems and how they contribute to agri-ecological and community resilience. For example, resiliency can be seen as a system's ability to adapt and respond to external impacts on a system, and farmers markets show resiliency to sudden market changes (such as price or consumer preferences toward organics, through direct sale and the involvement of a range of consumers and producers offering a broad range of organic produce). That is, this paper reviews these alternative approaches to food production in relation to key concepts from ecological systems thinking, such as ecological resilience, biodiversity and holism. More specifically, the paper explores how agri-ecological systems contribute to more sustainable and resilient communities, through community development processes such as relationship building, genuine participation, inclusiveness, resource mobilization and creating space for knowledge sharing. The paper concludes by comparing ecological systems models to agri-ecological systems, and suggests how ecological systems theories and concepts might contribute to thinking about the future of community-based agri-ecological resilience. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.