Agricultural EconomicDevelopment at the Rural-Urban Interface: Community Organization, Policy andAgricultural Change

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and CommunityDevelopment

Publication Date



New Leaf Associates





First Page


Last Page



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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