CRREO Releases 5th Discussion Brief: Agriculture Supporting Communities in the Mid-Hudson Region
NEW PALTZ – The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) has released its fifth Discussion Brief: Agriculture Supporting Communities in the Mid-Hudson Region. The CRREO Discussion Brief series focuses on regional issues, in order to inform citizens and decision makers of key public policy choices and issues in our region.
This latest release, authored by Brian Obach and Kathleen (KT) Tobin, finds that, “There has been some encouraging news lately for those who wish to preserve the rural character of the Hudson Valley. The growing vitality of small farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is helping farming to reclaim its central place in the economic and social lives of our region’s communities.”
The study details century-long trends in the number and size of farms. Nationwide, and in our region, while the overall number of farms has decreased dramatically, the proportion of both large and small farms has grown, and mid-sized enterprises have been squeezed out. Over the past twenty years, the number of small farms has increased in our region.
Because many of the small farms in our region are CSAs, our abundance of them led CRREO’s Regional Well-Being Project to test some ideas about the civic effects of this development. The study, which includes surveys of CSAs members and residents from throughout the region about connectedness to community and civic engagement, finds that CSA members have high rates of volunteerism and political participation in their communities.
Gerald Benjamin, CRREO Director and Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement, observes, "This latest aspect of our Regional Well-Being Project promises to help restore our understanding of the Hudson Valley’s agricultural heritage as central to our regional identity and further establish the importance of farming as a current and future driver in our economy. I am delighted with the quality and potential impact of this latest CRREO product."
Obach notes, “We have long known that agriculture in our region is under threat from development pressure and that if it is to be preserved, it needs support from local communities. But what we have learned is that local agriculture helps communities in untold ways. Local sustainable agriculture can not only preserve the rural character of our region, but it can actually strengthen communities, enhance regional identity and increase civic engagement.”
Tobin adds, “Political scientists and sociologists have documented a steady decline in civic and political participation. There are few other environments that foster the type of interaction that is common at CSAs. The evidence presented here suggests that CSAs can serve as incubators for civic engagement and community building.”
The authors encourage that “The revitalization of agriculture in our region needs to be nurtured,” and “efforts should be supported through individual and organizational action and public policy.”
The principal authors of this report are Brian Obach (Sociology) and KT Tobin (CRREO). In addition to Regional Well-Being/US Department of Education funds, Obach and Tobin were awarded United University Professional (UUP) grants and Obach utilized a grant from the National Science Foundation (#0550550) to complete this work.There was considerable student contribution to this project:
- Survey Development/Field Interviewers: Chris Utzig (Philosophy, ‘09), Carolyn Burgess (Sociology, ‘09), & Jenna Dern (Sociology, ‘09)
- Survey Data Entry and Management: Layla Al Qaisi (Political Science, ‘10) & Maria Davila (Political Science, ‘10)
- Secondary Data Research: Emily Sobel (Political Science, ‘11)
- Cartography: Ryan Reutershan (Geography, ’12)
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz is uniquely situated to advance agreement among environmentalists, advocates of development and key government decision makers on economic, social and environmental issues.
The Center was established in 2007 to further engage the university and its people with communities, governments, not-for-profits and businesses across our region.
CRREO conducts and publicizes research on regional topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific topics of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.
Previous Discussion Briefs and more information about CRREO may be found at www.newpaltz.edu/crreo.
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