The Future of Farming on the Urban Edge: Insights from 15 U.S. Counties about Farmland Protection and Farm Viability


  • Lydia Oberholtzer The Pennsylvania State University
  • Kate Clancy Food Systems Consultant
  • J. Dixon Esseks University of Nebraska at Lincoln



Agricultural Marketing, Farm Viability, Farmland Protection, Landowner Survey, Succession


Farmland protection and farm viability are two important aspects of urban-edge farming. Surveys of landowners and informant interviews were completed between 2005 and 2007 in 15 U.S. counties to examine the opportunities and constraints that farmers face in these areas. Landowners’ perceptions about the future outlook for their county’s agriculture varied greatly. Many operators in counties producing long-established crops, such as corn and soybeans, rely heavily on wholesale markets for sales. In other counties, farmers depend on a mix of wholesale and direct markets. Study results show that over half the respondents relying on direct markets operate small acreage farms with low gross agricultural sales. Operators using primarily wholesale markets tended to be more optimistic about the profitability and acces­sibility of their markets and the outlook for agricul­ture in their county than those depending on direct markets. In additional results from the survey, almost a third felt that equal emphasis should be placed on farmland preservation and farm viability efforts in order to keep farming viable in their county, while approximately the same number felt the priority should be protecting agricultural land from development via growth management policies. The unique characteristics of agriculturally important counties undergoing urbanization pressures pose challenges and opportunities to researchers and developers to recognize and employ the strategies that will help maintain a viable agricultural sector for urban-edge farming.


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Author Biographies

Lydia Oberholtzer, The Pennsylvania State University

Senior Researcher, The Pennsylvania State University, +1 (301) 891-0470. Permanent address: 214 Spring Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912 USA

Kate Clancy, Food Systems Consultant

Food Systems Consultant, 4401 Van Buren Street, University Park, MD 20782 USA

J. Dixon Esseks, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Visiting Scholar, Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, P.O. Box 880214, Lincoln, NE 68588- 0214 USA



How to Cite

Oberholtzer, L., Clancy, K., & Esseks, J. D. (2010). The Future of Farming on the Urban Edge: Insights from 15 U.S. Counties about Farmland Protection and Farm Viability. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 1(2), 59–75.



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