- Historically, rural economic development has focused on attracting outside firms or increasing exploitation of natural resources, often without equitable or lasting returns to the community. The Rural Wealth Creation framework was developed as a systems-based approach to assessing and leveraging local assets for the creation of lasting wealth in communities. Increasingly, development agencies, policy makers and practitioners throughout the United States are utilizing the rural wealth creation framework.
Local food systems have gained increasing focus in Oregon as potential drivers of rural livelihoods and community wealth creation. This year Rural Development Initiatives awarded six “exploration grants” to rural groups that sought to assess local/regional demand of their value-chain development idea. Five of these proposals identified food related value chains. This study examines three of the six groups’ efforts to report their expected outcomes and associated indicators of measurement, their implications and operational value. More specifically, this study assessed the chosen indicators’ plausibility, and their potential contributions to tracking the progress of the value chain idea.
A number of valuable conclusions were made concerning the Rural Wealth Creation framework, its contributions to food system related assessments and how rural communities and funding agencies alike could benefit from the inclusion of a researcher or otherwise skilled co-principal participant in the indicator selection process. Three lessons were highlighted: (1) Not all capital stocks should or can be measured in the rural development context. (2) Secondary data may not be useful for measuring the impacts of food system value chain investments in the rural context. (3) Indicators must be developed or co-developed with stakeholders, as local context is essential for identifying useful indicators.