The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Produce section at New Seasons Market, which promotes locally-grown food.
Image by Jala.

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.

Productive Rural Areas need to establish long-term, stable market links with nearby 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.

Examples of this pattern in action:

From Eric Gibson's Sell What You Sow! The Grower's Guide to Successful Produce Marketing With Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), members purchase "shares" of the farm's harvest, accepting less if a crop is damaged or fails. This is different than with conventional farming where the farmer bears all the risk. Once or twice a week mature crops are harvested and divided up among the shareholders. Usually the payment is several hundred dollars and the family receives enough vegetables to last through the season and sometimes enough for winter storage. The share is payable before the season starts, in one or several installments. If shareholders come out to the farm to pick up their produce, prices are usually from 25 to 50 percent less than retail prices for similar quality produce. Prices may be close to or above retail if the farmer makes deliveries.

Portland Saturday Market
The largest open-air arts and crafts market (in continuous operation) in the United States. The vendors handcraft everything at the Market and every item is submitted for review to a panel of members who assure that it meets the Market's standards of quality and hand craftsmanship. Over a dozen new craftspeople join the Market each month during the season so be sure to check back with the site for everything new. The Market is located in the heart of the historic Skidmore district in Downtown Portland and is credited with much of the success in rejuvenating Portland's Old Town area, drawing thousands of visitors to the area every weekend.

Farmers markets are economic lifeline by Kathy Mulady Crates of lettuce, peas and corn. Cartons of fresh berries. Jars of honey and wedges of cheese. Eggs. Shoppers carrying brimming baskets and bags stroll among the booths, invigorated by the fresh air. They chat with neighbors and the farmers about the produce. Organic farmer Michaele Blakely waters some vegetable starts in her greenhouse near Carnation. Blakely, who operates Growing Things, sells Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays at farmers markets in the area. For shoppers, the farmers market is an enjoyable alternative to the grocery store. But for farmers it is serious business.

Fergus-Mc-Barendse Seafood purchases Seafood directly from their fishing fleet who fish the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, and Willapa Bay. Their fleet of over 200 vessels catch a wide variety of species and deliver the fish to us in the freshest state. They unload the product, grade, process, package, and ship the product in a timely manner to assure that their customers get the freshest seafood possible. This product goes from the boat to your doorstep in a days time in most occasions, that's about as fresh as you can get it.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Small Farm Center

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas

Journey to Forever

The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center


National Association of Development Organizations


Gregson, Bob. Rebirth of the Small Family Farm: A Handbook for Starting a Successful Organic Farm Based on the Concepts of Community Supported Agriculture. Island Meadow Farms. Vashon Island, WA. 1996.

McFadden, Steven and Trauger M. Groh. Farms of Tomorrow Revisited: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities. Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association. San Francisco, CA. 1998.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling