New Report on How Rural and Urban Communities Can Help One Another

May 20, 2002

For Immediate Release
New Report on How Rural and Urban Communities Can Help One Another
Addresses Issues Ranging from Urban Sprawl to Business Development
May 20, 2002…Dallas…A new report, Urban and Agricultural Communities: Opportunities for
Common Ground, provides a road map on how urban and agricultural interests can benefit one another. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) released the report today before policymakers, academics, urban planners, and others in Dallas at the Urban Agriculture Symposium hosted by Texas A&M University. The unique report is the result of months of collaboration among scientists from diverse areas of expertise, ranging from social scientists to horticulturalists.
“In many people’s minds, rural and urban groups are pitted against one another,” said report Cochair Lorna Michael Butler of the Iowa State University College of Agriculture, Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, and Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture. “This report focuses on the role agriculture can play in serving as a common denominator between rural and urban sectors. As America’s population increases and its farmland decreases, there are good reasons to coalesce the interests and goals of rural and urban people.”
“We need a new vision for agriculture. A broader view of agriculture can help solve some of our daily concerns,” said Cochair Dale M. Maronek, head of the Oklahoma State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. “In fact, agriculture already is offering many solutions to the needs of city dwellers, but we must change the way rural and urban leaders work together, share resources, and develop creative policy options to solve common problems.”
In addition to food, fiber, ornamental plants, and forestry production, the report defines agriculture as including major components that range from food safety technologies to natural resource programs and to the people and organizations involved in agricultural policy, public education, and related agricultural service industries. The report provides an extensive discussion of the ways that agriculture already contributes to urban communities, such as storm water management, air quality, and economic benefits as well as community and human health and recreational opportunities. It also proposes initiatives that the agricultural system, higher education programs, and governments must undertake jointly to remain relevant to society. Research, extension, and educational opportunities are addressed for each initiative described in the report.
The report suggests five important initiatives within which agriculture can play a significant role:
  • Comprehensive Planning Initiatives: There is need for greater public support and understanding of the rural-urban agroecosystem; for integration of agriculture into long-term comprehensive rural and urban planning as well as other areas.
  • Public Policy Initiatives: Relatively little U.S. policy addresses agricultural relationships in both metropolitan and rural areas. Important policy-related issues fall in the categories of land use, food systems, and development of human capital.
  • Higher Education Initiatives: Higher education has a timely opportunity to respond to urban agriculture in several ways, ranging from curriculum to rural-urban extension programs to supporting community food systems.
  • Research Initiatives: More science-based information is needed to assist with the design and management of contemporary urban agriculture on topics such as urban soils, pest management, and farmland preservation.
  • Partnerships and Collaboration Initiatives: If agriculture is to survive in an urbanizing society, albeit in a different form, partnerships between traditional agricultural groups and urban interest groups will be imperative.
In addition to cochairs Butler and Maronek, authors of the report include: Nelson Bills, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University; Tim D. Davis, Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center, Dallas; Julia Freedgood, American Farmland Trust; Frank M. Howell, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Mississippi State University; John Kelly, Public Service and Agriculture, Clemson University; Lawrence W. Libby, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University; Kameshwari Pothukuchi, Department of Geography and Urban Planning, Wayne State University; Diane Relf, Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; John K. Thomas, Department of Rural Sociology, Texas A&M University and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station; and Paul B. Thompson, Department of Philosophy, Purdue University.
The full text of the report is available at the CAST website at <> along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications. CAST is an international consortium of 37 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders—legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.