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In search of new opportunities to support rural communities and economies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a growing number of development organizations have begun to promote a new set of goals for rural America under the umbrella of rural wealth creation. In this context, the concept of “wealth” includes all types of community capital assets (net of liabilities) that contribute to the well-being of people and communities—social, cultural, human, political, physical, natural, and financial capital. Wealth can paint a very different picture than economic activity when it comes to evaluating outcomes and policy practices.

While promising, the application of the rural wealth creation approach remains limited by conceptual and methodological ambiguities. Our interdisciplinary research team, comprised of 17 faculty, seeks to examine the rural wealth creation impacts of food system initiatives. Food systems provide an interesting and timely lens to investigate the efficacy of a rural wealth creation approach to rural development initiatives.

Contact: Becca Jablonski at

Project objectives:

  • Plan and implement a national conference for researchers, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rural Policy Research Institute and others that both furthers rural wealth creation as a dominant rural development paradigm and establishes CSU as a leader in this area of growing importance.;
  • Test the empiricization of the rural wealth creation framework using a case study of the Denver Food Vision and hypothetical ways in which they could implement their 2030 winnable goals; and
  • Build partnerships with key Departments, foundations, and industry to develop a Center (Institute) at CSU focused on food systems and rural development (wealth creation).

Project Team:

Michael Carolan, Co-PI Becca Jablonski, Co-PI
Libby Christensen, Project Manager Paul Meiman
Laura Bellows Michael Pagliassotti
Alessandro Bonanno Elizabeth Ryan
Randall Boone Meagan Schipanski
Perry Cabot Dawn Thilmany
Gamze Cavdar Jason Quinn
Andrew Jones Mark Uchanski
Michael Martin Matthew Wallenstein