Table 2. Cross-case comparison of social sustainability and institutional change.

Mesoamerican coffee systems
Organics in CA Central Valley
European Peri-Urban
Ag Parks
Social sustainability assessment
Democracy ++/-
Human health ++/-Equity and Justice +
Diversity ++/-
Resiliency +
Democracy -
Human health ++/-
Equity and justice –/+
Democracy ++
Human health +
Diversity +
Resiliency +
Level of DFS adoption
Common DFS and conventional farming practices
Medium to high
DFS: Agroforestry, multicropping, organic composting, live fences, landscape level forest conservation. Conventional low input: corn and beans production often uses some fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Relatively low
DFS: organic production, nutrient management, crop rotations, elimination of most agrochemicals
Conventional high input: Many mixed organic/conventional producers in Central Valley are employing monocropping across both sectors and using chemically intensive practices on their conventional land.
Medium, but highly heterogeneous
DFS: Heritage crops, landscape forest fragments, and other natural habitats.
Conventional: high input industrial monocultures common in some places.
Key governance institutions
Contested multistakeholder groups set and change certification standards
National government ministries and contested multistakeholder negotiation
Government led multistakeholder negotiations.
Institutions pushing the system away from DFS practices and sustainability
Out migration
Superficial farmer training
Green Revolution
Revisions to Fair Trade standards that the decrease smallholder benefits
Limited national government investment in rural health, agricultural worker rights
Access to subsidized water
National and state wide labor-immigration policy
Organic certification standards that allow input substitution
Highly dependent on government funding.
Recent historical legacies of conventional monocultures.
Institutions moving the systems toward DFS and sustainability
Local plant knowledge
Farmer learning networks
Alternative trade networks
Civic advocacy
Few identified in California’s Central Valley. Organic certification requires elimination of pesticide and chemical fertilizer use but does not require improved soil fertility management or more crop rotations
Civic participation in governance.
Multifunctional agriculture policy.
Clearly defined land tenure and geographic bounties.
Large local market for diverse “heritage” foods and landscapes.
The case of ++ indicates a very strong link with DFS and social sustainability, + a weaker link, and +/- indicates the presence of institutions that are contested with some forces advancing these criteria and others weakening the presence.
DFS = diversified farming systems.
Ag Parks = agricultural, or agrarian, parks