Farmers and Rural Kansas Communities: Planning for the Future


  • Stacey Swearingen White University of Kansas


Rural communities everywhere face ongoing questions about their resilience and plans for their futures. This study analyzes the perceptions Kansas farmers have of their communities as a basis for considering how rural planners might address such questions. Drawing primarily on interviews with 149 farmers across the state, as well as on a survey and Census data, the study finds that farmers perceive a variety of recent demographic, social and economic changes in their communities. The majority of these perceived changes are negative. Farmers in smaller, shrinking communities in the western part of Kansas were least optimistic about what is to come. Despite these perceptions, more than one in four farmers could not articulate ideas for desirable change. Planners in rural communities may need to engage residents in visioning exercises, and are likely to find that strategies for rural self-development and regional centers are most compelling to these residents. Keywords: rural communities; rural planning; Kansas; farmer perceptions; community change

Author Biography

Stacey Swearingen White, University of Kansas

Stacey Swearingen White is Associate Professor and Chair of the University of Kansas Urban Planning Department. She also serves as Director of Academic Programs for the KU Center for Sustainability. Her research focuses broadly on environmental and land use planning, and sustainability practices at the local government level.