Producer organizations as transition intermediaries? Insights from organic and conventional vegetable systems in Uruguay

Groot-Kormelinck, Annemarie; Bijman, Jos; Trienekens, Jacques; Klerkx, Laurens


Increased pressures on agri-food systems have indicated the importance of intermediaries to facilitate sustainability transitions. While producer organizations are acknowledged as intermediaries between individual producers and other food system actors, their role as sustainability transition intermediaries remains understudied. This paper explores the potential of producer organizations as transition intermediaries to support producers in their needs to adopt sustainable production practices. Ten cases of producer organizations in conventional (regime) and organic (niche) vegetable systems in Uruguay were studied qualitatively. Findings show that the classic intermediary roles that producer organizations fulfil in food systems also address the needs of producers in their transition to sustainable food systems. By providing organic inputs, organizing access to output markets, sharing knowledge, and facilitating sustainable production practices, producer organizations support producers within and across regime and niche. Producer organizations mostly function as implicit transition intermediaries, facilitated by their legitimacy among producers, their embeddedness in rural networks, and by refraining from taking a strong normative position. Producer organizations have the potential to be more explicit transition intermediaries, however this position comes with limitations. We provide policy recommendations to optimize the transition intermediary potential of producer organizations in their facilitation towards sustainable food systems.