Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2009


Published in Great Plains Research 19.2 (Fall 2009): 255.


Copyright 2009 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


The central question of Food and the Mid-Level Farm is both complex and fascinating: how can we renew an agriculture of the middle? To a large degree, the answer lies with what we think an “agriculture of the middle” is.

For decades, we have heard of a trend toward “bimodal agriculture” in which there are very many small farms, relatively few giant corporate operations, and not much in the middle. Most discussions of this “middle” go no farther than the scale of the operation, that is, the acreage, number of animals, and that sort of thing. The approach here moves us into richer territory: the “middle” is a marketing phenomenon. Some farms are too big to rely on direct marketing, but too small to be viable in a world of global contracts and input processing.