Food and the Mid-Level Farm
Agriculture in the United States today increasingly operates in two separate spheres: large, corporate-connected commodity production and distribution systems and small-scale farms that market directly to consumers. As a result, midsize family-operated farms find it increasingly difficult to find and reach markets for their products. They are too big to use the direct marketing techniques of small farms but too small to take advantage of corporate marketing and distribution systems. This crisis of the midsize farm results in a rural America with weakened municipal tax bases, job loss, and population flight. Food and the Mid-Level Farm discusses strategies for reviving an “agriculture of the middle” and creating a food system that works for midsize farms and ranches. Activists, practitioners, and scholars from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, political science, and economics, consider ways midsize farms can regain vitality by scaling up aspects of small farms’ operations to connect with consumers, organizing together to develop markets for their products, developing food supply chains that preserve farmer identity and are based on fair business agreements, and promoting public policies (at international, federal, state, and community levels) that address agriculture-of-the-middle issues. Food and the Mid-Level Farm makes it clear that the demise of midsize farms and ranches is not a foregone conclusion and that the renewal of an agriculture of the middle will benefit all participants in the food system—from growers to consumers.
About the Editors
Thomas A. Lyson was Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University until his death in 2006. He was the author of Civic Agriculture: Reconnecting Farm, Food, and Community.
G. W. Stevenson is Senior Scientist with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin– Madison.
Rick Welsh is Associate Professor of Sociology at Clarkson University.
“[A] valuable addition to the agrifood literature and to alternative agrifood social movement practices.”—Douglas H. Constance, Agriculture and Human Values
“Food and the Mid-Level Farm is a clarion call by some of the best minds and voices in the business—scholars and practitioners alike to reestablish the structures and relationships that will restore an 'agriculture of the middle.' Presenting state of the art research and analysis, this book reveals new and renewed economic models (e.g., coops, and value chains); it reviews and critiques national agricultural, marketing, and land use policies, and reconsiders the values embedded within the agrifood system. Ultimately, it offers a most serious and powerful invitation 'to frame a convincing rationale for a national initiative,' one that will permit economic balance, regional product diversity, and sociocultural values sufficient to shape a sustainable, US agrifood system. Those of us who eat ignore this invitation at our peril.”
—Laura B. DeLind, Senior Academic Specialist, Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University, and former Editor-in-Chief of Agriculture and Human Values
“Food and the Midlevel Farm pinpoints critical developments and takes steps in important original directions that will help expand the discourse of 'sustainable agriculture' beyond the very small and the very local.”
—Mrill Ingram, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum