A growing literature has grappled with the emergence of local food systems as an alternative to the conventional agricultural model and assumes that the development of local food system venues, such as farmers’ markets, are positive community-building initiatives. Too often left out of this discourse are empirical assessments of the community characteristics that lend themselves to the success of farmers’ markets or similar initiatives. Further, when farmers’ markets are not significantly patronized by community members, does this necessarily mean that people do not value local produce? This article uses the results from surveys of farmers’ market consumers and case studies of local foods initiatives in parts of Illinois to answer these questions and applies the community capitals framework and convention theory to help categorize communities according to their acceptance of farmers’ markets. Our findings demonstrate that consumers value locally-grown food despite location, but seek it out through different channels. The implications are that building successful local food systems is not simply about changing consumer opinion or applying a one-size-fits-all approach to local markets, but will require creativity in developing local markets that build on the current shopping behaviors of consumers.

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