Agriculture of the Middle: Creating knowledge for innovative business partnerships that move fair food from farm to market
The Agriculture of the Middle is made of many small and mid-sized farms and ranches in the United States. Every year many of these farms go out of business. Most are family-operated farms, where family members work and the farm provides household income. Together, they produce one quarter of farm sales and manage half of the agricultural land in the U.S. Individually, they often struggle to make ends meet. Many are in-between marketing channels: they are too small to compete with larger farms, but too large or otherwise unsuited to sell directly to consumers.
Small and mid-sized family farmers succeed when they can sell their products at a price that covers their costs and pays a fair wage. New mid-scale marketing channels called “values-based food supply chains” are long-term business relationships among farmers, processors, distributors and retailers. They connect farmers with consumers who are willing to pay a fair price for high quality food.
Partnering with values-based food supply chains can potentially keep small and mid-sized farms in business and support vibrant rural economies. When they are paid a fair price for their products, farmers can pay themselves and their workers a fair wage and prioritize the environment. A healthy Agriculture of the Middle is made of many small and mid-sized farmers, processors and distributors across the country. Together, they support a diverse, regional and resilient agriculture.