Social Responsibility and Community Development in Vermont’s Food Business

David S. Conner, Rocki-Lee DeWitt, Shoshanah M. Inwood, Michael Archer


Businesses are increasingly expected to contribute to community development and sustainability. This exploratory research examines how food and agriculturally-based Vermont businesses are defining the concept of social responsibility (SR), incorporating it into their enterprises, and linking their enterprises to their communities. We develop indicators of SR and use them to examine qualitative interviews of 20 food entrepreneurs. We find that these businesses expressed commitment to and claimed actions to contribute to a broad array of SR goals, including community (with specific mention of employee well-being and improved access to healthy foods), local economy, and the environment. In many cases the respondents cited measurable impacts their actions made such as employee retention, food access, improved farm nutrient management and support for and assistance to local businesses. Contrary to prior studies, firm age did not have a measurable impact on SR values or practices. However, we found evidence of a U-shaped relationship between SR and scale, where small and large firms were more highly engaged and medium scale ones slightly less so. Implications focus on strategies for improved metrics for validation of impacts.


sustainable agriculture, food systems, community development, values, metrics

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Copyright (c) 2015

Journal of Food Research   ISSN 1927-0887 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0895 (Online)  E-mail:

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