August 9, 2009
While many people profess to love America's vanishing rural landscape, no research has ever been done to pinpoint exactly why people value it. Until now.
A four-year research project recently completed by Leah Greden Mathews, associate professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, was able to determine the specific reasons people appreciate farmlands as well as to put a price tag on those values in Western North Carolina. The study, the first of its kind in the nation, looked beyond the obvious agricultural value of farms in the four-county area around the University. The team developed an enhanced land evaluation and site assessment (LESA) model that incorporates the scenic beauty and cultural heritage characteristics of the landscape. Mathews argues that the same model can be applied to rural areas across the nation, helping prioritize land for protection.