First Advisor

James Strathman

Date of Publication

Spring 6-10-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies and Planning


Urban Studies and Planning




Local foods -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Economic development -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area -- Regional disparities, Endogenous growth (Economics) -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 212 pages)


The local food movement in the Portland Metro Region of Oregon is as prevalent as anywhere in the Country. To a large degree this is driven by the Portland Metro area food culture and the diverse agricultural landscape present in the Willamette Valley and throughout the State. Portlanders demand local food and thus far the rural periphery has been able to provide it; driving a new food economy that has economic implications throughout the region. As this regional food economy emerges much attention has been focused on harnessing its power for economic development perpetuated by the belief that there exists an opportunity to foster a cluster of economic activity pertaining to the production, processing, distribution and sale of regional foods that might generate economic opportunities throughout the value chain.

The research presented here constitutes an attempt to characterize the local and regional food system that currently exists in the Portland Metro Region and to bring to light the opportunities present at the regional scale that link the agricultural periphery to the urban core. I present two different definitions of local and regional food systems and show how these different conceptions have very different implications for economic development. Once defined, I test for differences between local and regional food systems and the export-oriented, agro-food sector by analyzing aspects of geographic space and processes of knowledge accumulation and innovation in the context of aspects of regional economic development such as agglomeration economies, knowledge spillovers, business life cycle and industrial location.

My analysis showed that there are significant differences between local and regional food systems and the export-oriented agro-food industry specific to supply chains, actors and products of the different systems. Furthermore, through spatial analysis, I found that there are differences in terms of the spatial structure and distribution between producers who participate in the different systems. Local and regional producers tend to cluster closer together at smaller scales, are smaller in size and are found to be closer to the urban core. Through a qualitative inquiry I found that this clustering facilitates forces of agglomeration economies specific to food producers who participate in local and regional supply chains, particularly non-pecuniary effects of knowledge accumulation. This underlying structure has significant effects on economic outcomes and as such has implications in terms of regional economic development when local and regional food systems are considered in terms of the city-region.


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