Pathways to Prosperity is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary project. It connects rigorous research with extension outreach to support the development of effective, collaborative approaches to strengthening the value added food and agricultural sector in rural communities by developing their unique resources and amenities.
Asset-Based Responses to Rural Challenges
COVID-19 upended the global economy while casting into sharp relief longstanding challenges. Among the impacts of the pandemic was a stark reminder that social, economic, and environmental consequences are not experienced evenly across our society.
Among those hit hardest by the pandemic were rural communities. COVID-19 cases stressed rural healthcare systems already struggling before the pandemic. Limited access to broadband infrastructure and dependence on in-person employment hampered quarantine work adaptations while contributing to both higher COVID cases and increased unemployment rates. Meanwhile, shifts in the national and global economies further burdened rural places that were already struggling with economic recovery from the 2008 recession. Meanwhile, a growing urban-rural cultural divide exacerbates a growing sense of disenfranchisement from the rest of the country
Too often, these problems and deficits are used to characterize rural places, often implicitly or explicitly contrasting them with the asset strengths of their urban counterparts. Yet, rural places are not solely defined by their deficits. In addition to stewarding nationally and globally important natural resources, rural communities are frequently rich in intangible resources such as strong social and relational networks and vibrant cultures. Together these assets – financial and nonfinancial, tangible and intangible – comprise the “wealth” of community. Each community – rural or urban – stewards a different portfolio of these assets, offering unique strengths and weaknesses for each.
Building back better from the pandemic in rural communities requires locally-led, collaborative stewardship and leveraging of these diverse assets. Strengthening and informing these efforts is the mission of Pathways to Prosperity.
Taking an “asset-based” approach to rural development creates opportunities for communities to employ their unique strengths as a basis for development.
Opportunities from Food and Agriculture
One avenue for rural development is the creation of a local value-added agriculture sector. The value-added sector includes food and agricultural activities that enable farmers, ranchers, food processors, and other food related businesses to benefit from consumer preferences for organic products, locally grown food, and other quality characteristics not available in conventional agriculture. A strong, locally owned value-added sector allows rural communities to earn a larger share of agriculture sales rather than exporting that income to externally owned business.
This approach is a particularly promising for rural communities, which still rely heavily on agriculture to support local economies.
Developing a strong value-added agriculture sector allows rural farming communities to take advantage of their unique characteristics to not only increase overall economic growth, but improve public health and small and midsized farm and ranch viability.
Hundreds of U.S. communities – both urban and rural – have started to strengthen their value-added sectors. While the specific approaches are as unique as the communities that make them, such approaches overwhelmingly depend on collaboration in planning and managing food system plans.
The work of Pathways to Prosperity is to explore effective, collaborative strategies that rural communities can employ to create strong, local value-added sectors.
The Pathways to Prosperity project team is a collaboration between researcher and rural development practitioners at Ohio State University, Colorado State University, and American Farmland Trust.
Learn more about our partner community research.
National Resource Advisory Council Members
Questions about Pathways to Prosperity, have ideas or recommendations, or want to know how you can contribute or get involved? We would love to hear from you!
Or Snail Mail at: Pathways to Prosperity | 310C Page Hall | 1810 College Road North | Columbus, OH 43210