Working Landscapes is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build more sustainable livelihoods in the Warren County, NC region through stewardship of our natural and cultural assets.
We envision a Warren County region with a resilient economy in which citizens recognize, create and sustain opportunities to build on local assets and in which healthy farms, forests and waterways are interconnected with vibrant towns.
In a challenge to deficit-based thinking, we seek to identify, celebrate, and build on local assets, generating internally-driven instead of externally-dependent solutions, in order to build a resilient economy.
Using participatory, deliberative methods, we work to establish collaborations among diverse stakeholders in the issues we address, including those who may not have worked together historically.
In order to take on systemic problems, we consider entire landscapes—interwoven, heterogeneous expanses that encompass farmland, forests, human settlement, and waterways.
Our work is guided by systematic, mixed-method investigation of complex problems.
Our approach to problem-solving relies on considering the full universe of ways to address the problem, rather than placing artificial limits on our thinking.
We recognize the importance of storytelling, so we seek to document and share our story and our community’s stories.
We seek to educate ourselves and others through our work, and we seek to enrich educational institutions.
Whenever possible, we seek to develop practical solutions that are viable from a business standpoint, and we support others in launching business ventures that address public needs.
Working Landscapes was founded in 2010 by Warren County native Carla Norwood, PhD and her husband, Gabriel Cumming, PhD, with the support of founding board members Jeff Bender, Dorothy Holland, Jereann King Johnson, Bill Kearney and Tes Thraves. Carla and Gabriel, trained in community development and participatory research, had spent much of the preceding decade helping communities across North Carolina identify ways of sustainably managing their resources, including forests, farmland, mountain views and fisheries. Through Working Landscapes, they aimed to use their experience to contribute to the revitalization and long-term health of Carla’s home community.
Since its inception, Working Landscapes has focused primarily on helping to connect farmers to consumers in innovative ways that promote healthy citizens and a healthy economy. The food systems revitalization agenda of Working Landscapes was set through a year-long community engagement project, known as the Growing Local/Buying Local project, in 2010-11. Carla and Gabriel led this research process as postdoctoral researchers in Lisa Campbell’s lab at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The project also involved a number of student researchers from UNC and Duke.
The team utilized the Community Voice Method, a participatory research process developed by Gabriel and Carla, to engage local residents in discussing ways of revitalizing the local food/agricultural economy. The 170 Warren County residents who participated in the project identified four priorities: 1) support small farmers, 2) build farm-to-fork infrastructure, 3) educate consumers, and 4) engage youth. Since 2011, Working Landscapes, in conjunction with local organizations, have made significant progress on each priority since 2011.