Civic agriculture in review

Then, now, and future directions




Civic Agriculture, Civic Community, Social Welfare, Civic Engagement, Food Democracy, Local Food Systems


“Civic agriculture,” a term first coined by rural sociologist Thomas Lyson, refers to forms of agriculture that occur on a local level, from production to consumption, and are linked to a community’s social and economic development. Sixteen years since its original articulation, the term “civic agriculture” has taken on greater significance in research, political activism, and community organizing. Grown from the roots of civic community theory, civic agriculture functions as a new branch of civic community theory that is ripe for theorization. In revisiting the foundations of the term, this review paper seeks to consolidate current and future research in the field of civic agriculture with a focus on its link to social welfare. This begins by reviewing the foundations of civic community theory and discussing how they influence research related to civic agriculture. As we report in this paper, there remain considerable gaps in understanding of how civic agriculture can be fomented by—or is related to—indicators such as demographics, concentration of power, community cohesion, and civic engagement. Consequently, the assumed links between local food systems and social welfare must continue to be studied to determine correlation and causality. This understanding is particularly important during this time of global pandemic, when the flaws and inequities of global supply chains are exposed and where, in many cases, civic agriculture met the increasing interest in local food. The COVID-19 pandemic has amply demonstrated the fragility and instability of global food supply chains, making the need for local food systems more significant and more relevant to communities across the world.


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Author Biographies

Allison Kaika, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Masters Student

Alexis Racelis, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Environ­mental and Sustainability Sciences



How to Cite

Kaika, A., & Racelis, A. (2021). Civic agriculture in review: Then, now, and future directions. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(2), 551–572.