Density of resident farmers and rural inhabitants’ relationship to agriculture: operationalizing complex social interactions with a structural equation model

  • Ramona BunkusEmail author
  • Ilkhom Soliev
  • Insa Theesfeld


The presence of agriculture is diminishing in today’s society: it provides only a small percentage of jobs, and the number of visible farms that can provide exposure to agricultural processes is continuously decreasing. We hypothesize that the direct involvement with farm activities or interaction with farmers and visual appreciation of agricultural processes of all kinds, influences rural inhabitants’ relationship to agriculture. We assume that the latter plays a role in how far inhabitants are attached to their place, and more specifically, perceive rural place. In this paper, we aim to initiate a discussion on this complex social relationship and suggest a model to capture fine interactions between relationship to agriculture and rural place attachment. We examine the direct and indirect effects from the density of resident farmers on these interactions. We set up a model using data from empirical research in Germany conducted in 2016. We surveyed rural inhabitants and interviewed farmers in villages purposefully sampled based on high and low density of resident farmers. To reveal underlying relationships among the latent constructs and more directly measurable indicators, as well as the indirect effect of farm presence on place attachment through its effect on forming perceptions about agriculture, we operationalized our analysis using a structural equation model. Besides a good model fit, our initial results indicate that rural inhabitants form stronger relationship to agriculture when the density of resident farmers is higher. Further, farm presence and attachment to rural place are positively related, but needs to be better captured.


Farm presence Place attachment Non-farmer perception Distribution of landownership Rural development SEM Germany 



German Democratic Republic


Structural equation model



We thank the farmers and non-farm rural inhabitants for their time to take part in our research, as well as Jörg Gersonde for his comments on an earlier version of the database and Wiebke Schramm for helping with data management. We also thank the anonymous reviewer and the editor for their helpful comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Policy, Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional SciencesMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

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