Enhancing the Resilience of Agriculture and Food of the Middle: Building for the Future
Midsize farms are vital to the long-term resilience of food systems, communities, the economy, and the environment, but the number of midsize farms has decreased. Researchers at land-grant universities nationwide are working together to better understand and support midsize producers.
This interdisciplinary project has brought together 30+ scholars from 18+ states and is supported in part by USDA NIFA through Hatch Multistate Research Fund allocations to participating State Agricultural Experiment Stations at land-grant universities. Long-term collaboration enables efficient, rigorous investigation and fosters innovation. With members in multiple states, the team can cover different environments and share solutions widely.
CIAS helped found this interdisciplinary project in 2012 and has participated since. Michelle Miller is currently representing CIAS and will chair in 2024. Andrew Stevens (AAE), Lindsey Day Farnsworth (Division of Extension), and Sarah Lloyd (Grassland 2.0), as well as several graduate students have participated over the years.
As part of a multistate project on the “Agriculture of the Middle”, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, and University of Illinois researchers showed that midsize supply chains play a key role in improving labor conditions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions & building community wealth.
By working with the City of Madison to secure funding for a public food terminal, UW-Madison researchers were able to connect midsize farmers with new buyers and markets, which can increase farmer profitability and improve consumer access to local, fresh food.
Through an AFRI grant, UW-Madison researchers addressed social justice issues and developed Workers’ Rights Reference Cards in English and Spanish for farm and food workers.
With the help of an AMS grant, researchers at UW-Madison also studied COVID-19 effects on mid-scale supply chains. This involved an investigation into changes in supply chain infrastructure for local foods, CSA and box use, and farmers markets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of another AFRI grant, UW-Madison along with University of Vermont, Michigan State University, and Washington State University researchers identified factors that influence the viability of midsize farms, shedding light on ways to support these farms. 82 cider apple growers were surveyed in Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Vermont to better understand their needs and goals.
Quality data and research-based recommendations are key to reinvigorating the “Agriculture of the Middle” and its promise of economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Learn more about how researchers at land-grant universities are supporting midsize producers: https://bit.ly/midsize-farms