Agricultural Economic Development at the Rural-Urban Interface: Community Organization, Policy, and Agricultural Change


  • Jeff S. Sharp The Ohio State University
  • Doug Jackson-Smith Utah State University
  • Leah Smith The Ohio State University



Agricultural Economic Development, Community Development, Local Food Systems, Rural-Urban Interface


Utilizing data from a survey of key informants from U.S. counties at the rural-urban interface (RUI) with substantial agricultural production, this paper explores the relationship between the existence of formal organizations focused on agricultural economic development or food policy and the existence of other types of farm business or local food-system development programs. The research draws on concepts associated with traditional community-development theory and tests whether there is a relationship between the existence of social organizational capacity and various activities and outcomes. The analysis includes descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate analyses of data from over 500 U.S. counties located at the RUI. We find that counties that have formally organized, such as through the formation of a committee to support agricultural economic development or the formation of a food policy council, also have more agricultural business and local food-system development programs and policies. We also find that the counties with greater formal organizational development in support of agriculture are counties with larger populations, greater rural population densities, and larger numbers of farms compared to counties with less organizational development. We also find that the existence of these organizations is associated with greater optimism about the future of local agriculture among county key informants. The results suggest that local community development policy in support of agriculture at the RUI is warranted and the findings suggest opportunities for further research.


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Author Biographies

Jeff S. Sharp, The Ohio State University

Associate Professor of Rural Sociology, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, 320B Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43202 USA.

Doug Jackson-Smith, Utah State University

Dr. Douglas Jackson-Smith, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology, Utah State University, 0730 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-0730 USA.

Leah Smith, The Ohio State University

Leah Smith, Rural Sociology Program, Ohio State University.



How to Cite

Sharp, J. S., Jackson-Smith, D., & Smith, L. (2011). Agricultural Economic Development at the Rural-Urban Interface: Community Organization, Policy, and Agricultural Change. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 1(4), 189–204.