Using a Socio-Cultural Framework to Evaluate Farmland Preservation Policy Success in Maryland

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The intent of Maryland's farmland preservation policy has remained constant over the past three decades -- to preserve productive farmland and woodland for the continued production of food and fiber for all of Maryland's citizens. Therefore, thirty years after this statutory goal was made, how effective have Maryland's farmland preservation programs been in reaching this goal? This study addresses the absence of cultural and social analysis in the evaluation of farmland preservation program success in Maryland's metropolitan counties.

In utilizing a socio-cultural framework of analysis, this study shows that farmland preservation policies (in their drafting, implementation, and evaluation) are a cultural process, the outcomes of which create and sustain a particular social space and cultural landscape. Theories on the social production of space and landscape are relevant to the task of farmland preservation and agricultural economic development in metropolitan areas. The failure of farmland preservation policy in Maryland has, in part, been the failure to take culture seriously.

Quantitative indicators show that Maryland's state farmland preservation program has achieved moderate success in securing a productive agricultural land base over its first three decades, but has not been successful in preserving farming as a viable "way of life," has not stopped the erosion in the value of agricultural sales, and has not reversed the marketplace alienation between producers and consumers in the state.