For all the talk about the local food economy, it can be difficult sometimes to really imagine what it looks like, in practice, in Appalachia. One of the folks who's been a part of the very successful 30 Mile Meal Project in Athens, Ohio, just published an article for the Rural Futures Lab that explains how each part of the local food value chain works in their community. From producer to processor to consumer and everything in between, the article explains how it works and who's involved – a great read.
One thing I find particularly interesting is this diagram that represents the parts of the value chain:
Right at the center are "change agents," or "those that work individually and collaboratively to support the system." In Athens, these are folks like ACENet, Rural Action, and the Athens Food Policy Council – in other words, folks who aren't farmers, distributors, restauranteurs, or processors (although ACENet does operate some processing infrastructure), but people who care deeply about their community's economy, their farmers and the quality of food their friends and family eat.
I like the idea of "change agents" because there are some in every community. Even if an area doesn't have a shared-use kitchen, or local restaurants who want to buy local food yet, a local foods economy can develop and grow if there are a few committed, innovative folks who will work to make it happen. I know of several change agents in Eastern Kentucky who are really moving local foods forward in their communities.
Of course, change agents don't work just in local foods. I don't think you'll find any community transformations without some local folks or organizations who were relentless in making sure it happened. Who are the change agents in your community?