Farm near a road.

Renewing an Agriculture of the Middle: Value Chain Design, Policy Approaches, Environmental and Social Impacts

Principal Investigator

Hikaru Peterson

Department and College

Department of Applied Economics in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number


Funding Type


Partnering States

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Project Start and End Date

March 15, 2018-September 30, 2022

Project Summary

The project focuses on marketing opportunities for the sector that consists of mid-scale farms capable of generating household income. During the recent decades, this sector has been in decline. Income-generating small and mid-sized farms are vital to the overall well-being of US rural communities, the economy, and the environment. Research suggests that small and mid-scale farms spend a relatively higher amount of input dollars locally and have a higher multiplier effect than do larger farms. The land in mid-sized family farms comprises about one-fifth of all agricultural land and compared to other potential uses (i.e., development, particularly paving) provides numerous ecosystems services.

Many of these farms are too large or otherwise unsuited to direct market all of their products, yet too small to successfully compete in commodity markets. The marketing for these small and medium-sized farms constitutes the third tier of marketing that lies somewhere between direct marketing and commodity marketing. Partnerships and the opportunity to aggregate products with other similar producers offer the potential to bring modest price premiums of differentiated products while selling larger volumes and access to mass markets. Research agenda encompasses economic performance of supply chain actors, contributions to community well-being, contributions to the environmental well-being, supply chain governance, and policy implications. The project objectives will lead to improved opportunity and viability for mid-sized farms and increased vibrancy of our food system and rural communities.