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Good as Gold: The Marin-Sonoma Artisan Cheese Cluster


The overall economic performance of rural communities across the United States is challenged by shifting patterns of production, consumption, and global competition. Recent research has identified clusters - geographically proximate group of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementaries - as a prominent feature of successful rural economies. This dissertation explores the emergence of an artisan cheese cluster from historic dairy roots in Marin and Sonoma Counties in the North Coast region of California. The artisan and farmstead cheese producers there provide an instructive case study to assess the social, cultural, and economic impacts of the artisan cheese clusters generally. Michael Porter's (1990) "Diamond Model of Competitive Advantage" is utilized as an analytic framework to consider factors that provided competitive advantages during various historical periods before and during the emergence of the cluster, as well as to assess its current business environment.The viability of encouraging such artisan cheese clusters in other rural regions as an economic development strategy is evaluated based on these findings.

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