Agriculture presents common ground for rural, urban people

Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 15 2002 -- The diverging attitudes of urban and rural residents concerning how each fits into the national way of life troubles Diane Relf.

"We need to actively pursue connections between urban and rural people, because that will increase understanding," Relf said. "The fact is, this isn't an us-them issue."

A professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech, Relf joined with colleagues from around the country in authoring Urban and Agricultural Communities: Opportunities for Common Ground. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, or CAST, released the report earlier this year.

Strange as some people may find it, Relf said a unifying, though largely unrecognized, factor in American society is agriculture. What the report documents is something that many associated with agriculture understand intuitively.

"Agricultural science impacts people's daily life in the immediate urban environment," Relf said. "Agriculture is not only about food and fiber, as important as they are. It's also about such things as the green industry's role in urban revitalization, economic benefits to cities, and even reducing crime in cities. Rooftop greenery helps with heat control, it provides runoff benefits, and it cleans the air. There are numerous areas where there are beneficial impacts."

In addition to food, fiber, ornamental plants and forestry production, the report defines agriculture as including major components that range from food safety technologies to natural resource programs and to the people and organizations involved in agricultural policy, public education, and related agricultural service industries.

The report provides an extensive discussion of the ways that agriculture already contributes to urban communities, such as storm water management, air quality, and economic benefits, as well as community and human health and recreational opportunities. It also proposes initiatives that the agri

Contact: Dr. Diane Relf
Virginia Tech

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