Exploring the needs of urban producers in a rural state
A qualitative needs assessment
Keywords:Urban Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, Local Food, Needs Assessment, Sustainability
Urban farming is a phenomenon rising in popularity across the United States. Investigating the needs of urban farmers in a predominately rural state is important in informing future programming and technical assistance for these clients. This qualitative study used semi-structured, in-depth interviews that investigated the perceptions, needs, and experiences of Arkansas urban farmers and their interactions with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Interviews were conducted with 16 urban farmers in Northwest and Central Arkansas. The interview data revealed highly individualized needs based on the operation size, years in operation, and mission of each urban farmer interviewed. While needs varied, some were consistent, such as market pricing, co-ops, and access to appropriate equipment. Participants also revealed a positive perception of Extension, though they cited that the organization did not always have resources specific to small-scale, sustainable farming. Building from the Community Food System Development Framework for Change and informed by the AgroEcological-Educator theory, this study provides urban farmers’ insights and contextualizes urban farming in a predominately rural, southern state. Potential remains for increased collaboration and communication between Arkansas urban farmers and Extension. This article demonstrates the diverse needs of Arkansas urban farmers, which can be used by Extension and sustainable agriculture experts to inform research about urban and sustainable farmers in their respective states.
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