Rural-Urban Linkages

Lacking stable market links with nearby towns and cities, rural areas are often forced to sell their products at poor prices to far-flung markets.

Produce section at New Seasons Market, which promotes locally-grown food.

Productive Rural Areas need to establish long-term, stable market links with nearby Compact Towns and Cities. This enables them to get improved prices and long-term contracts for produce, timber, fish, and other products. When producers are well known, and their products known to be of superior quality, they can differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a simple example. In this case, a farm offers its customers a chance to purchase a subscription share that runs through the growing season. Deliveries are made, typically weekly, either to a center location or subscribers' homes, with an assortment of that week's produce. This arrangement allows farmers to get very strong prices for their produce on a predictable basis, and allows subscribers to get to know the farmers and the land responsible for their food.

Farmer's markets, which are extremely popular in California, Oregon, and Washington, offer important market linkages, allowing farmers, beekeepers, bakers, and many others to sell their wares at good prices. Pike's Place Market in Seattle adds a vibrant fishmarket to the mix, along with a range of local crafts. Many farms offer visiting opportunities, with roadside stands or you-pick arrangements.

In recent years, many restaurants specializing in regional, seasonal, and organic ingredients have sprung up. Chefs Collaborative is promoting this approach to fine cuisine across the United States. Members of the Collaborative like Greg Higgins of Higgins Restaurant in Portland and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley seek out regional specialties at their peak taste, purchasing from the same suppliers year after year.

Sustainable Northwest's Healthy Forests Healthy Communities Partnership is working to build rural economies based on forest restoration and ecosystem management. The Partnership is creating new markets for the small diameter suppressed trees and underutilized species harvested in restoration operations, producing flooring, furniture, crafts, fixtures, and other products, thereby creating jobs in communities adjacent to degraded forests. Rural-urban linkages like these make an important contribution to Local Economies.

Rural-urban linkages help rural producers get better prices for their goods and improve their financial stability. They also connect urban consumers with pressing issues and concerns for nearby rural areas.