Network Theory Trailer


Filmed in Appalachian Ohio, a region all-too-familiar with the boom and bust cycles of an extractive economy, Network Theory features six agrarian entrepreneurs who weave open, collaborative networks to create a community-based food economy. The film travels across a web of inter-connected enterprises, including a worker-owned restaurant, a pizzeria, a community cannery, a farm, and an urban garden where visionary network weaver June Holley reveals that everything you need to know about cultivating a robust community can be learned in a garden. The film will appeal to rural and urban audiences alike, demonstrating the emerging power of collaborative, cross-regional networks to stimulate large-scale change and reinvigorate our democracy. The film was directed by Brad Masi (PolyCultures, For the Love of Food) with cinematography by Mika Johnson (the Amerikans). 

Running Time: 44 minutes


Tags: Athens, films

Introduction to ACENet in Athens, Ohio

The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) is one of the nation's pioneers in network-based local food systems development. ACENet began their work in the 1980's,  long before the terms network weaving or social networks were even known. ACENet has specialized in cultiaving networks of farmers, small entrepreneurs, and businesses engaged in growing the local food economy in Appalachia. One of the poorest rural regions in the nation, ACENet has created economic models that provide new opportunities for low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs, creating pathways for long-term economic sustainability. This contrasts with a lot of the extractive industries that have come and gone in Appalachia, leaving landscapes and local economies struggling. Leslie talks about some of the history of ACENet and the unique culture and topography that have supported one of the most diverse agricutlural sectors in Ohio.

Local Food Infrastructure- Flash Freezing

Leslie Schaller, co-founder and Director of Programming for the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) in Athens, Ohio talks about the role of flash freezing technology in bolstering local food economies. She talks about their flash freezing facility, part of a multi-use kitchen incubator facility in Athens, and how it is used by farmers and entrepreneurs to preserve fresh product. Flash freezing helps to retain more nutrients and flavor and is less intensive than bottling or canning. The facility is also utilized by Casa Nueva, a worker-owned restaurant, to process and preserve foods that provide the base for both canned products or for use in prepared meals at the restaurant.

Ohio University Invests in Local Food Processing Infrastructure

Leslie Schaller with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) catches up Matt Rapposelli, a local food entrepreneur turned food service director at Ohio University. Matt talks about the valuable networks he formed as a small business and how that carried over into his efforts to expand Ohio University's already highly successful local food initiatives. He brings an entrepreneurial approach to food service management, overseeing the expansion of the university's facilities to more effectively process and store locally grown foods while employing a number of students and local residents. Ohio University provides a good example of going beyond local food purchasing and actually investing in the productive infrastructure necessary to provide local food year round in a cold-climate region.

ACENet and Value-Chain Organizing

Leslie Schaller with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) gives a quick overview of organizing local food systems through value-chain development. She talks about how ACENet collaborates with other organizations in southeastern Ohio to provide support for entrepreneurs linked to all nodes along the value chain: marketing, production, processing, distribution, aggregation, and policy. She discusses the importance of facilitating communication linkages between entrepreneurs from different sectors to foster greater collaboration and stronger local economic networks. The network approach means that no one entrepreneur works alone. It also means that individuals can be productive participants in a local food system, regardless of the scale at which they work. For example, some community gardeners gain important growing skills that lead to market farming opportunities down the road.