Economies of Community

Since the end of World War II, we’ve witnessed the consolidation of nearly every aspect of our food system. Across the country, the vital local infrastructures that once supported and fed communities, that took decades to build, have been dismantled. Towns have watched their slaughterhouses, supermarkets, butchers, dairies, and bakeries simply disappear. The question is how do we usher in a period of reform? To usher in a period of reform you need a counter movement, a social movement powerful enough to force us to institute reforms.

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The decreased cost per unit that arises with increased production.


Economies focused on networks of farms, highly local distribution channels, and motivated consumers. These are ways to build healthy, local food systems


A system of food production, processing, distribution and consumption that exists on a local level that supports the local economy.


The Marshall Plan was a US initiative to help rebuild what was destroyed in Europe during World War II. A new Marshall Plan is needed in this country: to recover what’s been lost from centralizing production and consolidating industries.


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The principle known as economies of scale has allowed entire industries to consolidate and become more efficient, including our food system. Now there’s no difference between a supermarket in Kansas City or Boston or San Diego or Fort Lauderdale. And our culture is the poorer for it. Benzi Ronen of Brooklyn, New York-based Farmigo explains how the principle of economies of community can help connect people while rebuilding local food systems.


Benzi Ronen has launched Farmigo which acts as a platform for food entrepreneurs to launch their own farmers markets and management software tools to farms.


Discusssion Guide: EOC

Excerpt from Lexicon’s Film Discussion Guide “Economies of Community”:

The post – war era created an economic boom, as a new interstate highway system allowed businesses to expand across the nation. A company could now supply its goods across the country. These economies of scale caused entire industries to consolidate, and by centralizing production, these companies of scale could now sell goods and food for cheaper than your local business. Because of this, small and local grain mills, bakeries, super markets and slaughterhouses were put out of business and vanished.

Discuss how the loss of culture, diversity and local connection affects a community.

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“Food Economics” BY GRACE

Supporters of the new industrial model boast its “efficiencies,” touting its ability to produce huge quantities of cheap food.  This analysis, however, fails to take into account the many hidden costs, including declining rural economies and farmer livelihoods, environmental damage and public health consequences. GRACE has tackled these arguments and is presenting the costs of industrial food production in this informative resource page.

Link: Check out this useful information about the hidden costs of industrial food production.



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Information Artwork Text

Title: Pie Lab
Location: Greensboro, AL
Featuring: Miss Deborah, the manager at Pie Lab
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

PIE = COMMUNITY Pie is easy to linger over, and conversations happen when people linger.

Pie + Ideas = Conversation

Pie Lab was founded in 2008 as a pop-up café, design studio + civic clubhouse with a single purpose: to bring life back onto Greensboro, Alabama’s main street…by serving pie. Pie Lab is a partnership between “Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization” (HERO) and a design collective know as Project M.

Conversation + Design = Social Change

“I’m a big fan of James Howard Kunstler’s ‘Geography of Nowhere’,” says Lexicon artist Douglas Gayeton, “so I ask Miss Deborah how pie lab shows that we can bring life back to the main street of our small towns.” She says, “The other day I met an older man at Pie Lab who had grown up here in Greensboro and moved away when he graduated high school. He told me stories of how alive Main St. was when he was growing up, all about the movie theatre, the stores and the pool hall he and his buddies would hang out in. His description was one of an exciting place to be. Then he looked around Pie Lab, at the new businesses on the street, and said, ‘It’s finally coming back to life’.


Information Artwork Text

Title: Economies of Community
Location: Chuberg Organic Farm in Latrun, Israel
Featuring: Benzi Ronen from Farmigo
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

An industrialized food system is highly centralized and benefits from ECONOMIES OF SCALE. Local food systems benefit from ECONOMIES OF COMMUNITY.

Three principles of EOC:
1.    Transparent equal access to information
2.    Democratized equal voice and ability to take action
3.    Frictionless simple transactions and feedback

A sustainable, democratized food system is decentralized and benefits from a network of farms, highly local distribution channels and motivated consumers.

Benzi develops web-based software to empower local food systems.

How can software enable the scaling of a decentralized food system so it feeds more households with locally sourced food? The internet helps local food producers and consumers find each other easier, software-enhanced systems further leverage this power of the internet by allowing consumers to join scalable, location-specific networks of farms and food producers. Targeted knowledge sharing has transformed the purchasing of food into an intimate conversation between consumers and food producers, it strengthens local economies and results in more secure local food systems.


Information Artwork Text

Title: The New Food Economy
Location: Munson Farm, Boulder, CO
Featuring: Dave Carlson of Community Food Share
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

A system of localized relationships which defines how our food travels through the supply chain (fundamental to this equation is the welfare of humans, animals and agriculture)

CREATING A LOCAL, FULLY-INTEGRATED FOOD BUSINESS Jason moved here from Berkeley, CA (“The Bay Area is the fertile crescent of this country food movement”) because he recognized a need and a challenge. The people of Athens cared about the land and what they ate, but didn’t have a thriving local food scene, so he created one.

JASON MANN SAYS, “AS A SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL ENTREPRENEUR, I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF THOUGHTFUL BUSINESS MODELS. THEY PROVIDE A BENEFIT THE PUBLIC SECTOR CAN’T COMPETE WITH IN THE REALM OF CREATING SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION. It’s not just about pasture-raised pork or locally sourced vegetables, but about EVERYONE having access to these products. It’s about farmers being able to sustain their families and those in low-income communities being able to cultivate healthy + conscientious eating habits. Both ends of the food chain must be sustained.  Our collection of businesses grew in the same spirit as the adaptive management strategies we’ve always practiced in our fields. Adaptability is our most useful characteristic, and paramount to our philosophy.”


Find fun facts and quotations in our interviews with Lexicon thought leaders. And link back to the Lexicon so we can share your article!

1. Benzi Ronen of Farmigo

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2. Katherine Kelly for Cultivate Kansas City

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Supporting a Local Economy and Gaining Community

By Tucker Taylor

I’ve always loved shopping at local farmers markets. For me, it is not just about getting the freshest food available, it’s about the experience. It is about the excitement of engaging with local farmers and neighbors. In college, I enjoyed sharing that experience with friends. We would make a day of it, taking a trip to the market and then returning to my house where we would all create brunch from our morning finds.

Later in life, I became a farmer, selling produce at local farmers markets and to local chefs and natural food stores. I felt similar to the way I did in college, enjoying the excitement of engaging with my community, not simply just buying or selling produce. That sense of community feeds my soul. I really enjoy growing flowers and specialty produce, but in the end it is my community of chefs, food producers and distributors that makes it all worthwhile.

Tucker TaylorTucker Taylor is an expert in certified organic farming, specialty produce, and sustainability. Taylor strongly believes in soil cultivation—with a healthy dose of compost—as the key to a good harvest. He is now the first Director of Culinary Gardens for Jackson Family Wines, where he spearheads the cultivation of all the company’s gardens globally. Prior to joining the Kendall Jackson family, Tucker oversaw landscaping at every property of the world-renowned chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants (French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc), setting the standard for today’s farm-to-table fine dining. Follow him on Instagram @farmert
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The ideas of cooperative work are central to many movements in Latin America. Nelson Escobar has brought those ideas from his home in El Salvador to Louisville, Kentucky where he coordinates a large urban farm that brings together a diverse community to grow, eat and sell good food.

The ideas of cooperative work are central to many movements in Latin America. Nelson Escobar has brought those ideas from his home in El Salvador to Louisville, Kentucky where he coordinates a large urban farm that brings together a diverse community to grow, eat and sell good food.
The ideas of cooperative work are central to many movements in Latin America. Nelson Escobar has brought those ideas from his home in El Salvador to Louisville, Kentucky where he coordinates a large urban farm that brings together a diverse community to grow, eat and sell good food.


Nelson Escobar from La Minga.




Host a painting party with these in your classroom, or at your home and invite the neighbors over! The Lexicon of Sustainability is excited to present a new way to participate in the movement. Inspired by street artists, the Lexicon has converted our popular information artwork into posters for anyone and everyone to paint and share with their community.

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