For the public good: Weaving a multifunctional landscape in the Corn Belt

Noelle M. Harden, Loka L. Ashwood, William L. Bland, Michael M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Critics of modern agriculture decry the dominance of monocultural landscapes and look to multifunctionality as a desirable alternative that facilitates the production of public goods. In this study, we explored opportunities for multifunctional Midwestern agriculture through participatory research led by farmers, landowners, and other local actors. We suggest that agriculture typically fosters some degree of multifunctionality that arises from the divergent intentions of actors. The result is a scattered arrangement of what we term patchwork multifunctionality, a ubiquitous status quo in which individuals provide public goods without coordination. In contrast, interwoven multifunctionality describes deliberate collaboration to provide public goods, especially those cases where landowners work across fence lines to weave a synergistic landscape. Using examples from two case studies, we demonstrate the spectrum of patchwork and interwoven multifunctionality that currently exists in the Corn Belt, and present underutilized opportunities for public good creation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-537
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Agriculture
  • Landscape
  • Multifunctionality
  • Participatory research
  • Phosphorus pollution

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