During the farm crisis of the 1980s we began to better understand the inherent faults of an industrialized food system. Despite large gains in productivity, efficiency, and economies of size, thousands of farms were in foreclosure. Many farmers were overly extended in debt. Others were in trouble because of a combination of factors such as drought, low crop prices, high input prices, and the lack of competition in the marketplace. The end result was the loss of thousands of farmers and a subsequent decline in many rural communities.
At the same time, a new vision of an enduring agriculture emerged. It was called sustainable agriculture. This new paradigm became attractive because it focused on solutions to the problems of the day. Sustainable agriculture offered hope to farmers that were willing to differentiate their product and add value to it, deal with ecological costs by using sustainable best management practices, and work to create equity in food system employment. Forming new links with consumers is enabling farmers to set their prices, and consumers are willing to pay to know more about their food.