Current Research

Strengthening Rural-Urban Linkages to Support Rural Economic Development:
the Case of Re-Localized Food Systems

RESEARCH NEED: Between 2009 and 2012 the US Department of Agriculture supported over 2,600 local food initiatives (~$336 Million). These initiatives are primarily concentrated in urban areas where there is a sizeable, growing market for local foods. They are widely understood to support communities, economies, and farmers; however, there have been few, if any, studies that holistically and empirically assess the impacts of farmers’ markets on both urban and rural communities. Using qualitative, economic, and spatial analysis, we will investigate strengthened urban-rural linkages as an economic development strategy by broadly evaluating the farm, community (defined here as wealth creation), and economic impacts of urban-based local food system initiatives.

RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the farm profitability and rural community economic impacts of urban-based local food system initiatives?


  1. Use a state-of-the-art multi-regional economic impact modeling strategy to assess the impacts of local food system efforts;
  2. Expand beyond traditional economic impact measures to holistic wealth creation indices;
  3. Assess farm profitability resulting from participation in local food system efforts;
  4. Gather evidence of the economic, wealth creation, and farm-level impacts of local food system initiatives as a strategy for regional development


Case Study: Research will focus on a case study of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Farmers’ Markets (Greenmarket). Greenmarket was founded in 1976 with a two-fold mission: to promote regional agriculture by providing small family farms the opportunity to sell their locally grown products directly to consumers, and to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, most nutritious locally grown food the region has to offer. Today Greenmarket is the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers’ market network in the country, with 54 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participating. We hope to gather in-depth information through interviews.

Economic Impact Assessment: Through in-depth interviews with willing farmers that sell through the Greenmarkets, we will customize a multi-regional Social Accounting Matrix model and quantify both the total regional economic impact of Greenmarket, as well as the distribution of economic impact in urban and rural locales.

Mapping Wealth Creation Impacts: A wealth creation framework conceptualizes wealth as a community’s assets (net of liabilities) that contribute to the wellbeing of an individual or group. Data on eight forms of capital (social, individual, intellectual, natural, built, political, financial, and cultural) will be collected from a wide-range of stakeholders in both urban and rural locales – i.e., planners, political officials, consumers, adjacent businesses. Geographic information systems (GIS) based mapping will illustrate rural-urban linkages and assets and liabilities within each of the rural wealth creation domains. Time series maps will reveal investment flows.

Net Farm Profitability Impacts: Farmers will be asked to participate in a market channel assessment (MCAT), wherein they track the labor and other major expenses involved in moving product to market. Researchers will track net profitability impacts and make recommendations to improve profitability.

Other members of the research team include: Todd Schmit, David Kay, and Jennifer Minner

This research is made possible by a Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Economic Research Service, a Northeast AgEnhancement Grant from Farm Credit East, and a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (award number 2015-68006-22848)

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