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Challenging the urban–rural dichotomy in agri-food systems

Shellabarger, Rachel M., Voss, Rachel C., Egerer, Monika, Chiang, Shun-Nan
Agriculture and human values 2019 v.36 no.1 pp. 91-103
collective action, farms, mixing, public opinion, rural development, United States
The idea of a profound urban–rural divide has shaped analysis of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results. Here, through examples from agri-food systems, we consider the limitations of the urban–rural divide framework in light of the assumptions and intentions that underpin it. We explore the ideas and imaginaries that shape urban and rural categories, consider how material realities are and are not translated into U.S. rural development, farm, and nutrition policies, and examine the blending of rural and urban identities through processes of rural deagrarianization and urban reagrarianization. We do not argue that an urban–rural divide does not exist, as studies and public opinion polls illustrate both measured and perceived differences in many aspects of the lived experiences that shape our individual and collective actions. Ultimately, we suggest that the urban–rural divide concept obscures the diversity and dynamism of experiences each category encompasses. Additionally, it ignores the connections and commonalities that demand integrative solutions to challenges in agri-food systems, and draw attention to the power relations that shape resource access and use within and across urban and rural spaces.