Tiers of the Food System: A New Way of Thinking About Local and Regional Food
Posted September 2010
From farmers’ markets to supermarkets, there is a spectrum of relationships between consumers and the businesses that grow, process, distribute and market their food. The burgeoning local food trend has caused many people to seek food from—and personal contact with—local farmers as a way to connect with the food they eat.
Consequently, small-scale, local food production is often contrasted with the anonymity of global, industrial food production, resulting in a black and white portrayal of local and global food systems. In reality, the food system is far more complex than local versus global and artisanal versus industrial.
Between backyard gardening and multinational food conglomerates, there are diverse food businesses that cultivate a variety of relationships with their customers and partners along the supply chain. In order to better understand production and consumption relationships across the food system, researchers in Wisconsin developed the Tiers of the Food System framework identifying five different levels of relationships between food producers and consumers.