The Changing Rural Periphery: Contested Landscapes, Agricultural Preservation, and New Rural Residents

Authors: Holly Barcus*, Macalester College
Topics: Rural Geography, Population Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Sustainable rural development, demographic diversity, migration, rural, agriculture, U.S.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 4.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The rural periphery is an increasingly contested place and often the site of conflicting perspectives on agricultural land conversion, landscape preservation, and narratives of identity and place, particularly in places with high demand for new development and rapidly changing population composition. Large agricultural operations face increasing competition for land and aging farmer populations mark the continuation of farming-in-place as tenuous in the long-term. In contrast, potential new farmers, many of whom are socially, economically, and demographically different from those who have historically farmed the land, find it difficult to accumulate sufficient land and capital to enter into agricultural production.

In this paper, we adopt a political ecology framework to evaluate the social, economic and policy linkages related to land protection and agricultural use. We argue that three threads of change facilitate and support new agricultural initiatives, including demographic change and growth in rural places, new land policies, and local support for landscape preservation. We evaluate two case studies to highlight linkages between local and regional land preservation policies, new farmers, and new models of agricultural production in Dakota County, Minnesota. Each case study highlights how new, demographically and socially diverse farmer-entrepreneurs are seeking to change the agri-food system through new models of agricultural production while working to extend opportunities for new farmers to establish or expand their agri-business. Situated within broader conversations about global food production, urban encroachment and rural land conversion, this paper highlights the role of new farmers and demographic change in rural places.

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