NC1198: Enhancing the Resilience of Agriculture and Food of the Middle: Building for the Future

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC1198: Enhancing the Resilience of Agriculture and Food of the Middle: Building for the Future

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

The NC1198 multi-state group evolved to address a disconcerting structural change in United States (US) agriculture: the decline of midscale family farms. We have referred to this phenomenon as the disappearing “Agriculture of the Middle (AOTM).” Midsized family farms (defined by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, USDA ERS, as having gross cash farm income between $350,000 and $999,999) included 107,316 US farms and ranches in 2020, representing 5.3 percent of all operations (Witt et al. 2020), down from 123,009 (5.7 percent of all operations) in 2011 (Hoppe 2014).


The decreasing numbers of midsized family farms is troubling given research that these operations are important to the overall well-being of U.S. rural communities, the economy and the environment (e.g., Kirschenmann et al. 2008). For example, previous research suggests that small and midscale farms spend a relatively higher amount of input dollars locally and have a higher multiplier effect than do larger operations (Schmit et al. 2016). Further, midscale operations operate almost 23 percent of all agricultural land (Witt et al. 2020), which can result in a number of important ecological impacts, as well as socio-cultural impacts in the places where these operations are located.


Changes within global agricultural markets, notably consolidation, contracting, and vertical integration, have made market access difficult for small, mid-scale, and beginning farmers and ranchers (Constance et al. 2014, Lobao and Meyer 2001, Hendrickson et al. 2019, Howard 2021, Sexton 2010). For example, in U.S. pork production, large pork producers own processors and grain elevators, while supermarket behemoths Walmart and Costco are using backward integration in dairy, beef and chicken. Kroger continues its strategy of backward integration in dairy and is supplying competing retailers (Hendrickson et al. 2020).


Recent disruptions to the global food system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures have brought new and heightened attention to the structure and resilience of U.S. food systems, and particularly the role of midscale operations. For example, in response to the pandemic the Biden administration created a Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. One of its recommendations was to: “Rebuild America’s production and innovation capabilities. Long-term competitiveness will require an ecosystem of production, innovation, skilled workers, and diverse small and medium-sized suppliers” (White House 2021).


We define resilience within the context of the food system as its ability to respond and react to shock and stress (economic, social, environmental, or institutional) without failing to perform its function as a system (e.g., Meuwissen et al. 2019, Walker et al. 2004). Previous research by members of this multi-state group has demonstrated the importance of values-based food supply chains (VBFSCs) in supporting both AOTM and more resilient systems (e.g., Stevenson et al. 2011). A recent AFRI project led by NC1198 members defined the value(s)-added food and agriculture sector to incorporate three key features: (1) consumers make purchases that simultaneously provide utility and enable a price premium; (2) the shared principles among firms and their relational arrangement support the distribution of the value, and thus the premium, across the chain and between owners and employees; and (3) supply chain actors have a demonstrated commitment to the community (Clark et al. 2020). In short, VBFSCs can be differentiated from other food supply chains by key characteristics such as shared values, risks and profits by participating firms as well as greater community investment, which in turn, contribute to higher value products and benefits such as increased local ownership. A separate USDA AFRI project led by NC1198 members identified and created a database of over 250 VBFSCs in the US that distinguish themselves in the marketplace based on particular attributes related to food quality, environmental practices, distribution of economic benefits, and/or social relationships (Peterson et al. 2016).


The challenges that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic with the conventional food system provided opportunities for innovation within the VBFSC sector including within the local and regional food sector. AOTM producers participating in alternative value chains showed great flexibility in pivoting to meet new demands and new marketing arrangements (Thilmany et al. 2021a,b). Many midscale operations pivoted to online ordering and reoriented their supply away from restaurants and to retail or delivery (Thilmany et al 2021). For example, Greg Gunthorp of Gunthorp farms reported that the almost total disappearance of food service markets upon which his business depended initially appeared catastrophic. However, he had a large human capital base, flexibility in equipment, and the management ability to change processing and packaging in his USDA inspected on-farm slaughter and processing plant, allowing him to switch to individual retail customers and grocery stores (Hendrickson 2021). He has since made further changes in his livestock operation to continue diversifying markets and distribution channels (Bowman 2020).


The NC1198 project is well equipped to investigate opportunities to support AOTM, particularly emerging markets and policy opportunities resulting from the pandemic and policymakers’ interest in fostering more resilient food systems. Over the course of the NC1198 project, the team members have produced numerous case studies, peer reviewed publications, lesson plans, and presentations to professional meetings and received many extramural grants to support the work. Moreover, the group has congealed into a dynamic community of scholars, collaborating on a variety of topics and developing deep expertise in the field of values-based food supply chains and strategic partnerships. 


We request approval to continue this work. We anticipate conducting research to meet three objectives: 1) examine the governance structures of values-based food supply chains and the internal and external constraints on their ability to preserve values along the supply chain; 2) investigate the effects of systemic disruptions (i.e., COVID, climate change, natural disasters) on mid-scale food supply chain resilience, including on social equity (marginalized populations, racial equity) and environmental justice; and 3) build the capacity of project members to collaboratively investigate, address, and communicate policy issues surrounding mid-scale producers and supply chains, considering commodity and information flows, and shared risks and benefits. It is critical this work be conducted as a multi-state project, given the diversity of the scholars and settings in which we work, and our ability to research collaboratively, as well as learn together and share lessons across contexts. The research is technically feasible: we employ well-established research methods with which our team has established expertise. Our objectives will lead to improved opportunity and viability for mid-sized farms and increased resilience of our food system and rural communities.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Because of the work of this multistate, the disappearing “Agriculture of the Middle” is now familiar to many food systems scholars and stakeholders. Research by members of this group and others have proposed and explored values-based food supply chains as mechanisms for improved market access and viability of mid-sized farms. We define VBFSCs as partnerships based on shared values, transparency, trust and co-learning (Bloom and Hinrichs 2010, Conner et al. 2011, 2012, Feenstra et al. 2011, Stevenson et al. 2011, Stevenson and Pirog 2008, Stevenson 2009).


In 2003, a broad consortium including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the Leopold Center at Iowa State University, and the University of Wisconsin – Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems organized a task force that focused on renewing an agriculture-of-the-middle (see the consortium website at In the last year of the current NC1198 project alone, the group’s members have been extremely productive, totaling 27 peer-reviewed journal articles, 13 funded grants, a website (, and numerous presentations to professional and lay audiences.


The previous multi-state project focused on expanding the economic, social, and environmental benefits of AOTM and VBFSCs to more regions and communities in the US. The objectives of this proposed project (below) take a deeper dive into examining the relationship between the structure of the food system, particularly in the context of supply chain disruptions and new opportunities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We will endeavor to understand and measure structural changes and opportunities to promote resilient systems that support AOTM, as well as to develop and articulate governance and policy recommendations, and train our members to better communicate with policymakers. The sections below highlight key results and lessons from our AOTM project team on the impact of shifting market structures on VBFSCs and midscale farms, impacts of COVID-19 disruptions, as well as relevant governance questions and policy challenges.


Market structure, values-based food supply chains, and midscale farms


AOTM members Mary Hendrickson and Philip Howard have spent over two decades studying how a minority of global actors make many of the decisions surrounding food production, and highlight the implications of these decisions for farmers, consumers, communities, and their environment (Hendrickson et al 2001; Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002; Howard 2015, 2016, 2021; Howard and Hendrickson 2020; Hendrickson, Howard, Miller and Constance 2020). They, along with others, have analyzed the ways that transnational agrofood firms have exerted their power in restructuring relationships along the supply chain from farm to plate, harming ecologies, rural communities, and the livelihoods of farmers and food workers, (Hendrickson, Howard and Constance 2019; Carillo and Ipsen 2021; Hendrickson 2020; DeLind and Howard 2008). The concentric expansion of globally dominant firms into previously separate industries, such as under the umbrella of “protein,” for example, is likely to further diminish equity in food systems by exacerbating power asymmetries (Howard et al. 2021). Increasingly, farmers and consumers are excluded from decision-making about food through the continued consolidation of critical points of the supply chain. In addition, Hendrickson, Howard and colleagues have investigated potential pathways to revitalize competition policy (Hendrickson et al 2018; Hendrickson and James 2016). Currently Hendrickson is Co-PI of a NIFA- funded project (2021-67023-33824) examining fairness in agricultural markets. 


Values based food supply chains


Several AOTM members, Hikaru Peterson, Gail Feenstra, Marcy Ostrom, Keiko Tanaka, and Christy Anderson Brekken, have recently completed a USDA funded project to understand the experience of VBFSC from the farm operators’ perspective, where VBFSCs are marketing service businesses that work with small and medium-sized farms and target consumers who value conservation, high quality foods, and keeping farmers on the land. They compiled a database of VBFSCs around the nation and conducted a national survey of small and medium-sized farms that sold through these VBFSCs in May 2017. Relatedly, Marcy Ostrom, Phil Howard, David Conner, and Michelle Miller led another USDA funded project focused on a cider supply chain as a subsector of VBFSCs. Through this work they have conducted farm surveys, cider maker focus groups, and distributor and retailer interviews across four states to understand supply, production, and distribution issues of craft cider.


Sarah Lloyd, Michelle Miller, Phil Gottwals, and Lindsey Day Farmsworth led a project that builds on previous AOTM research, using participatory methods to uncover barriers and opportunities to increasing aggregation and distribution capacity across regional food supply chains in the Circle City Region of Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northern Illinois. This study found that wholesale produce markets, despite their aging infrastructure and pressure from wholesale bypass, have a variety of characteristics that have the potential to foster greater organizational diversity and supply chain resilience by increasing market access for medium-sized farmers, processors and buyers; promoting competition and quality; fostering business development, innovation and interaction; providing complementary services and indirect benefits; and improving freight efficiencies to reduce GHG emissions and transport costs.


Isaac Leslie, Analena Bruce, Clare Hinrichs, and Tom Safford have been looking at models for producer collaboration such as food hubs and producer marketing cooperatives. This project utilizes commodity chain ethnography to conduct a New England-based case study of a values-based supply chain to assess strategies for the establishment and sharing of values across the supply chain.


Midscale farms


The UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems led a participatory effort to better understand labor issues on small- and medium-scale farms involved in local and regional food systems. The research team explored certification, negotiation, coalition building, and public policy strategies to ensure a fair return on labor and good working environments. Using these lenses, they examined domestic fair trade activities and clarified opportunities to develop a values-based labor market and income stream for regional food production. They did this through participatory research, by investigating efforts to improve fair labor practices and applying lessons learned from the global fair trade experience. Mid-scale farms and food businesses are organizing to address these issues, and they engaged them in the research process to ensure that their work was grounded in real-world concerns. Building supply chain coalitions to address labor working conditions is a key finding that deserves further exploration.


Additionally, AOTM members Clare Hinrichs, Jan Joannides, Jill Fitzsimmons, and Kathy Ruhf are leading a USDA NIFA funded, ongoing multi-state project examining farm succession and transfer, with a focus on the ability of mid-scale operations to continue. The project aims to understand the characteristics of AOTM farms and their particular succession and transfer challenges and identify strategies that might increase the prospects for entry into this sector, decrease their overall rate of decline, and result in positive impacts for AOTM farmers and their communities. AOTM member Kathy DeMaster has a related USDA NIFA funded project exploring the financialization of U.S. farmland: effects of changing land ownership on small and mid-sized farms. This project investigates the impact of increasing financial landownership on small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers in highly productive agricultural regions of California, Oregon, and Illinois. They use multiple methods, including analysis of tax parcel data, in-depth semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and surveys to identify farmland investment patterns and their subsequent influence on land access and tenancy arrangements.


Impacts of COVID-19 disruptions


Many AOTM project team members are conducting work to support a better understanding of COVID-19 disruptions and the opportunities that they present for midscale farms and ranches, as well as to promote a more resilient food system. AOTM researchers Hikaru Peterson, Andrew Stevens, Zhaohui Wu, and Lindsey Day Farnsworth have been working to investigate opportunities to improve food transport and distribution during disruptive events. This research documents national perishables supply chains, that is, food that is directly consumed by US residents, with a focus on high-value, cold-chain dependent foods. Understanding the network structure of these specific food movements will highlight unique transportation challenges and infrastructure needs for essential and perishable products, as well as opportunities for regional market development. This study will inform supply chain and transportation professionals about existing chokepoints in the critical cold chain transportation infrastructure (refrigerated trucks, warehouses, electric charging stations, etc.). USDA will have a better idea of the network structure of food and where the weak spots in the national network are limiting the flow of food, especially to rural parts of the US and urban underserved communities. This project is bringing us closer to understanding what a resilient food system requires and lays the basis for quantifying food system resilience.


Hikaru Peterson, Michelle Miller, Andrew Stevens, and Lindsey Day Farnsworth have a USDA NIFA funded project that assesses the impact of the pandemic on the food system using a regional supply chain survey and a national consumer survey. Analytical work is designed to identify the structure of regional food systems to explain regional differences in the pandemic impact. Lastly, focus groups are planned to co-create solutions to better prepare for future disruptions.


Governance and Policy


Finally, the AOTM project team has been working for many years to understand how to better connect research and policy. In 2015, the NC1198 Policy Working Group (a subcommittee of this broader multi-state collaborative) surveyed the full NC1198 group to learn whether and how they are including policy in their AOTM and VBFSC research. In 2016, they published a working paper "primer" for NC1198 members, "Why and How to Include Policy in Ag of the Middle Research" and led a training on that topic at the annual meeting. In 2017, at the annual meeting, they led a workshop on writing policy briefing papers. At the 2019 and 2020 annual meetings, they led discussions on federal and state policy that NC1198 members are tracking, to inform researchers, prioritize researcher-policy communication, and identify emerging research topics. Additionally, at every annual meeting in the last 10 years, the project team has invited staff of public agencies and policy advocacy organizations to speak on policy developments and programs relevant to AOTM topic.


  1. Examine the social, physical, and governance structures of values-based food supply chains (VBSCs) and the internal and external constraints on their ability to preserve values along the supply chain.
  2. Investigate the effects of systemic disruptions (i.e., COVID, climate change) on mid-scale food supply chain resilience, including on social equity (marginalized populations, racial equity) and environmental justice.
  3. Build the capacity of project members to collaboratively investigate, address, and communicate policy issues surrounding small and mid-scale producers and supply chains, considering commodity and information flows, and shared risks and benefits.


A notable strength of NC-1198 work to date has been its commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to research and its use of mixed methods. The group includes diverse academic disciplines (e.g., economists, sociologists, ecologists, systems scientists), which offer a versatile toolbox of methods that can provide triangulation of results and innovative and rigorous insights on complex issues. Members can employ qualitative methods and case studies to explore new issues and provide greater depth regarding patterns of context, motivations and consequences, as well as quantitative methods to measure and correlate critical variables within larger, representative populations. The group has a track record of adapting wide-ranging social science methods to empirical problems in the nexus of agriculture of the middle and mid-scale food value chains.


Objective 1 will include three different activities. Activity 1.1: Identify whether VBFSCs are constrained by market structures, industry concentration and community assets and if so, how and to what degree. Activity 1.2: Assess how VBFSCs’ governance structure affects how risks and benefits are shared among owners, operators, farm and food system workers and customers. Activity 1.3: Measure how VBFSCs’ governance structure affects their ability to operate within planetary boundaries and meet their equity goals.


For Activity 1.1, we will review existing and recent literature on external constraints on VBFSCs’ ability to preserve values along supply chain, including: a) market structures (this includes competitive market context and geographic concentration), b) industry consolidation and concentration, and c) community assets. Subsequently, we will develop a theoretical framework for how external constraints shape the development, operation, outcomes and impacts of VBFSCs. And, we will conduct comparative case studies to understand how actors managing and participating in VBFSCs perceive and respond to their external context through evaluating how VBFSCs’ ability to operate and enact values across the supply chain is constrained by external pressures, and identifying strategies used by VBFSCs to adapt to external constraints.


For Activity 1.2, we will review existing and recent literature on internal constraints on VBFSCs’ ability to preserve values along supply chain, including: a) emerging market models and governance structures used by VBFSCs, and b) impacts and outcomes associated with different VBFSC governance structures. Using comparative case study data from Activity 1.1, we will compare different types of market models (e.g., cooperatives, food hubs, aggregating Community Supported Agriculture arrangements, online farmers markets, box or subscription programs) and governance structures (e.g., farmer-led, consumer-led, nonprofit-led, private entity-led) utilized by VBFSCs. Next, we will investigate how VBFSCs navigate the tension between the drive for greater efficiency and economic viability with their guiding values by evaluating strengths and weaknesses, outcomes and impacts of different marketing and governance models for owners, operators, farm and food system workers and customers.


In Activity 1.3 we will measure how VBFSCs’ governance structure affects their ability to operate within planetary boundaries and meet their equity goals. We will do this by first reviewing existing and recent literature on VBFSCs’ ability to preserve environmental and social equity values along the supply chain. Second, we will use comparative case study data from Activity 1.1 to identify and describe the values identified and prioritized by VBFSCs and whether they vary by marketing model or governance structure. Third we will investigate how the values that VBFSCs claim to prioritize are operationalized and implemented by VBFSCs with different marketing models and governance structures. Fourth, we will assess which kinds of market models and governance structures are more likely to preserve values along the supply chain.


Objective 2 will use an integrated research, education and Extension approach to investigate and share the effects of systemic disruptions (i.e., pandemic, climate change, natural disasters, human-made and market disasters) on mid-scale VBFSC food supply chain resilience, including on social equity (marginalized populations, racial and gender equity, quality jobs) and the intersections between food justice, environmental justice, and disaster justice. To achieve Objective 2, we will pursue two activities. Activity 2.1 will examine and share how impacts and responses vary by the organizational structure (e.g., inclusive participatory decision making), scale, commitment to values (e.g., sustainability, environmental justice, equity), or other characteristics of VBFSC supply chains. Activity 2.2 will investigate the intersections between environmental justice, food justice and disaster justice by investigating how effects of systemic disruptions are distributed unevenly among various types of actors in the food systems.


For Activity 2.1, we will review existing and recent literature on: a) pandemic responses, impacts, and outcomes on different types of VBFSCs, b) climate disaster responses, impacts, and outcomes on different types of VBFSCs, and c) infrastructure disruptions (i.e. energy, pandemic, education, transportation, processing, retail outlets, labor). Next, we will conduct surveys at the state and national levels to identify external factors (e.g., local, state, and national policy context including distribution of relief, social equity context, bioregion, and economic structures) and internal factors (e.g., organization of supply chain, labor dependency, values basis of supply chain, marketing strategy, resilience of individual actors in the VBFSC, and adaptability/flexibility of VBFSC actors and organizational structure) that shape the capacity of different food supply chains to respond to systemic disruptions.


In Activity 2.2 we will conduct a systematic literature review – including academic and grey literatures - on the effects of recent disasters and disruptions (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes, pandemic) on food supply chains at the national, regional, and state levels. To do this, we will use bibliographic software (e.g., Endnote, Mendley) to create a shared bibliographic database that catalogues the literature on environmental justice, food justice and disaster justice, and their intersections. Once the systematic literature review is complete, we will synthesize it to create a framework for understanding the different impacts and responses across varying mid-scale VBFSCs. Next, using surveys from Activity 2.1, we will measure differential impacts on vulnerable populations of intersecting disasters by race, class, and location in the food chain (for example farm workers simultaneously facing wildfire smoke and Covid-19). Additionally, we will use a national case study approach that accounts for different regions to test how the framework reflects on-the ground realities. This will also help us to identify and assess the role of physical and social infrastructure, provided by Federal, state, and local governments as well as Extension, non-profit and private sectors, on mitigating disruptions and building resilience for mid-scale VBFSCs.


Objective 3 will include three activities. Activity 3.1 will assess the impacts of public investments (particularly COVID related), on market structures, supply chain resilience and sustainability (including social equity, ecological). Activity 3.2 will support food policy councils and coalitions (local and statewide) in their efforts to create and sustain rural and urban linkages. Activity 3.3 will build the capacity of project members to communicate their research findings to public policy actors (e.g., policymakers, public agency staff, advocacy organizations) at the federal and state levels.


To achieve Activity 3.1, we will assess the profitability impacts of public investments in market development, particularly on the viability of mid-scale farms and ranches. To do this, we will explore regional competition and cooperation models to assess supply, potential processor demand, estimates of labor availability, and market opportunities to identify public investments and human capital that support market access for mid-scale operations.


For Activity 3.2, we will promote regional coordination of food policy councils, through working with the Food Policy Network. We will also evaluate potential activities of the councils to intentionally promote regional coordination to determine which activities better support AOTM.


For Activity 3.3, we will participate in quarterly "Cultivating Research Advocates" workshops hosted by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, to share research summaries and track policy development and implementation processes. The “Cultivating Research Advocates” webinar series, led by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, explores the intersections of research and policy with practical “how to” guidance. As academic researchers and educators, we have opportunities to influence public policy toward more just and sustainable food and agriculture systems. Next, as we have done in previous years, we will survey project members (by email/Qualtrics and in discussion at annual project meetings) about their activities communicating research findings to policy actors and identify priority training topics. We will provide a peer-to-peer training once per year, at the annual meeting, on a specific policy communication approach. Finally, we will facilitate annual discussions and information-sharing on state-level policy related to agriculture of the middle and values-based supply chains, identifying state policies that may be relevant in other states.  

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Objective 1, Activity 1.1: Synthesis of literature leads to the development of a theoretical framework to understand and evaluate VBFSC strategies.
  • Objective 1, Activity 1.2: Evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses, outcomes and impacts of different marketing and governance models for owners, operators, farm and food system workers and customers using an equity lens.
  • Objective 1, Activity 1.3: Broader understanding of the kinds of market models and governance structures most likely to preserve VBFSC environmental and equity values while remaining economically vibrant.
  • Objective 2, Activity 2.1: Descriptive list of internal and external factors that shaped varied impacts and responses to the pandemic and other climate disasters by VBFSCs
  • Objective 2, Activity 2.2: Shareable database of the existing literature on environmental justice, food justice, and disaster justice, and their intersections; and a theoretical and methodological framework that synthesizes the literature
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.1: descriptive list of investments to support agriculture of the middle and improve supply chain resilience, with recommendations
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.2: community of practice within Food Policy Network focused on regional coordination
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.3: increased researcher participation and skill building through workshops and trainings; increased and more effective researcher communication to policy makers

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Objective 1, Activity 1.1: Improved understanding of internal and external constraints on VBFSCs informs policy environment surrounding supply chain disruptions and resilience.
  • Objective 1, Activity 1.2 and 1.3: Improved understanding of the differential impacts of specific marketing and governance models for VBFSCs improves their competitive capacity and resilience while allowing them to preserve environmental and equity values.
  • Objective 2, Activity 2.1: Improved capacity of mid-scale VBFSCs to prepare for and respond to future systemic disruptions
  • Objective 2, Activity 2.2: Improved capacity to respond to the needs of groups (e.g., workers, marginalized groups) who are disproportionately affected by systemic disruptions on mid-scale VBFSC supply chains
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.1: improved supply chain resilience that supports agriculture of the middle, related to viability, climate change, social equity, labor conditions, and other factors
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.2: improved capacity of food policy councils to promote regional coordination, leading to improved outcomes and resilience for agriculture of the middle
  • Objective 3, Activity 3.3: public policy is more responsive to the needs and goals of agriculture of the middle and values-based supply chains because of increased researcher-policy actor communication


(2023):Objective 1, Activity 1.1: Creation of a theoretical framework that informs at least one funded proposal employing the framework to understand external constraints on development of VBFSC supply chains by 2023. Objective 2, Activity 2.2: Creation of an open source database of the literature at the project website by 2025.

(2024):Objective 1, Activity 1.2 and 1.3: At least two funded multi-institution proposals by 2024 that apply the framework to evaluation of different marketing and governance models of VBFSCs, and to determine which better preserve VBFSC values. Objective 2, Activity 2.1: At least one research proposal funded by 2024 that enables a national survey on systemic disruptions on mid-scale VBFSC supply chains. Objective 3, Activity 3.2: At least 10 food policy councils participating in new regionally-focused community of practice by 2024.

(2026):Objective 3, Activity 3.1: At least two research proposals funded by 2026 that facilitate enhanced coordination of agriculture of the middle supply chain actors.

(2027):Objective 3, Activity 3.3: >25 researchers (>5 annually) to better communicate with policymakers.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

The research activities of this multistate project are “integrated” and combine outreach, education, and Extension initiatives. Many of the members of this multistate project have joint research and Extension appointments, and are closely linked to many Federal (e.g., US Department of Agriculture), State (e.g., Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services), and nonprofit (e.g., American Farmland Trust, The Wallace Center, Farm to Institution New England) groups.


The Agriculture of the Middle website, currently housed at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin, is being updated to reflect new research, publications, policy briefs, curricula, and engaged work with federal, state, and community partners, as well as past case studies, background readings, and the project’s history.  The website, once fully updated, will also provide information about the multi state's public-facing work.  Additionally, the site will offer resources and support for small and mid-scale producers and supporting institutions and groups. 


Finally, the multistate project has long-term relationships with the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and Food Distribution Research Society (FDRS) where we make regular presentations, panel discussions, and hold roundtables at annual meetings. Further, we will coordinate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on their Cultivating Research Advocates webinar series, providing important opportunities for objective 3 outreach. 


This multi-state research/education committee will be organized nationally with opportunities for working groups to emerge along both content and geographic lines. Research areas will be defined and scientists will self-select into clusters of interest. One of the major objectives of these smaller groups will be to obtain additional funding. Outreach will be conducted on state, regional, and national levels. The committee will meet annually and between-meeting communication will be achieved through email list-serves and virtual meetings. Clusters may seek to meet in conjunction with other professional meetings/conferences which most members attend (notably discipline-specific societies (e.g., applied agricultural economics association, rural sociology) and trans-disciplinary food systems societies (e.g. agriculture, food, and human values; food distribution research). The national committee will be facilitated by a chair and vice-chair elected for annual terms, with the expectation that the chair-elect and past-chair serve as the executive committee. The administrative advisor for the proposed multi-state committee will be William Nganje from North Dakota State University.

Literature Cited

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Hendrickson, M. K., James, H. S., Kendall, A., & Sanders, C. (2018). The assessment of fairness in agricultural markets. Geoforum, 96(July), 41–50.


Hendrickson, Mary K., Phillip H. Howard, and Douglas H. Constance. 2019. “Power, Food and Agriculture: Implications for Farmers, Consumers and Communities.” Pp. 13–61 in In Defense of Farmers: The Future of Agriculture in the Shadow of Corporate Power, edited by J. W. Gibson and S. E. Alexander. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.


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Independent Food Systems Consultant, Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania State, Renewing the Countryside, University of Maine, University of Montana, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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