In the past decade, statewide agricultural branding campaigns have blossomed. Examining the case of the Kentucky Proud™ (KyP) program, this paper investigates the potential benefit of a state-level marketing strategy for the declining class of midsize farms, referred to as Agriculture of the Middle (AOTM). First, we discuss why AOTM farms are important to maintaining a viable agriculture structure. Second, we introduce the context of state branding and explain how KyP developed as part of the transition from highly tobacco-dependent agriculture. Using recent agricultural census data and a survey of KyP members, we compare the key characteristics between three sets of pairs: (a) U.S. AOTM farmers and Kentucky AOTM farmers, (b) Kentucky AOTM farmers and KyP-member AOTM farmers, and (c) KyP AOTM farmers and other KyP-member farmers. The findings indicate that Kentucky's AOTM farmers are unique compared to U.S. AOTM farmers, and that the KyP program benefits particularly those AOTM farmers transitioning from tobacco-dependent agriculture. We also found that the logo of the state branding campaign helps member farmers differentiate their products, and that the program helps most members gain knowledge and skills for marketing their products. Overall, findings suggest that state branding campaigns designed to incentivize agricultural marketing of local foods have the potential to help farmers of the middle. Further research needs to be done in order to track the long-term impact of different agricultural branding campaigns.
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This project was partly supported by generous grants from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Rural Sociological Society Master’s Thesis Research Award. This research was also funded by the USDA-NIFA Multistate Research Fund NC 1198, “Renewing an Agriculture of the Middle: Value Chain Design, Policy Approaches, Environmental and Social Impacts.”
Hullinger, Alicia M. and Tanaka, Keiko, "Agriculture of the Middle Participation in State Branding Campaigns: The Case of Kentucky" (2015). Community & Leadership Development Faculty Publications. 9.