(1) Background: A large body of literature is available on the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of alternative food systems, but not much of it is devoted to the dynamics underlying their design and implementation, more specifically the processes that make an alternative food system successful or not in terms of its sustainability aims. This gap seems to be particularly critical in studies concerning alternative food systems in urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA). This paper explores how the design and implementation of multifunctional farming activity in a peri-urban area surrounding the city of Reggio Emilia in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy impact the achievement of its sustainability aims. (2) Methods: The environmental, social, and economic components of this project are explored in light of the sociology of market agencements
. This method brings up the motivations of the human entities involved in the project, the role played by nonhuman entities, and the technical devices used for the fulfillment of the project’s aims. (3) Results: The alternative food system under study lacked a robust design phase and a shared definition of the project aims among all the stakeholders involved. This ended in a substantial mismatch between project aims and consumer expectations. (4) Conclusions: When a comprehensive design stage is neglected, the threefold aim concerning sustainability might not be achievable. In particular, the design of alternative food systems must take into account the social environment where it is intended to be put in place, especially in UPA, where consumers often live in suburban neighborhoods wherein the sense of community is not strong, thus preventing them from getting involved in a community-based project. In such cases, hybridization can play a role in the sustainability of alternative food networks, provided that some trade-offs occur among the different components of sustainability—some components of sustainability will be fully achieved, while others will not.
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