Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Anthropology



Major Advisor

Kendall House, Ph.D.


John Ziker, Ph.D.


Sarah Toevs, Ph.D.


The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 revealed vulnerabilities in industrial food systems, particularly in relation to food security. In this thesis I explore small-scale, local, and ecologically sustainable forms of agriculture (Small Ag) that are frequently presented as options enabling communities to achieve increased food security. This concept of Small Ag deserves closer investigation. This thesis describes an ethnographic pilot study of Small Ag I conducted in Boise, Idaho during the 2020 pandemic. Using remote digital research methods to conduct surveys and interviews, I investigated the beliefs, motivations, and behaviors of participants in Small Ag. I sought to answer basic questions: What does Small Ag look like as a food production system? How do individuals become involved in Small Ag? Why do they persist? What sustains a vibrant local community of participants? I learned that participants in Small Ag emphasize self-reliance and informality. While these ideals are not inherently bad, they can become barriers limiting the coordination of Small Ag as a more widely applicable food system. Increased coordination is needed to grow Small Ag as a resilient community-level food system. My research suggests that when third-party facilitators help coordinate and organize collaborations between the many aspects of Small Ag, the possibility for broader community-level engagement with local foods increases. Future research should focus on understanding how such facilitation might be strengthened.