Sustaining the Family Farm at the Rural Urban Interface: Farm Succession Processes of Alternative Food and Agricultural Enterprises and Traditional Commodity Farmers.

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: Ohio State University
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Jeff Sharp
Ohio State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans
  • Fruits: general
  • Vegetables: general
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, free-range, housing, manure management, pasture fertility
  • Crop Production: application rate management, no-till
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: grass waterways, habitat enhancement, hedges - grass, wetlands, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
  • Soil Management: composting, green manures
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, social capital, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    A significant issue facing U.S. agriculture is the question of who will be the next generation of farmers. Family farming has historically been reproduced through a complex process of farm succession. This process of intergenerational transfer of the farming occupation and farmland from parents to children is becoming more tenuous as an increasing number of farmers lack a farming heir. The absence of an heir may be especially problematic at the rural-urban interface (RUI), where farmland is already at risk of being developed for nonfarm purposes. As a result, agriculture at the RUI is increasingly characterized by a mix of traditional farms as well as adaptive farms pursuing urban oriented agriculture (i.e. organic and direct marketing). While planners, activists, and academics have touted a shift into alternative food and agricultural enterprises (AFAE) as a viable strategy for preserving farmland, farming and agricultural landscapes at the RUI, a longer term challenge to the viability of this adaptation may be the success of the succession process. The failure of AFEAs to persist across generations may result in these enterprises simply being transitional forms of farming before conversion to urban uses. It is the thesis of this proposed project that farm succession is a complex yet critical process that plays an important role in influencing the trajectory of agriculture at the RUI. In addition, this research anticipates there may be some interesting gender dimensions to the succession process at the RUI as a result of many AFAE’s placing a greater emphasis on hospitality (an often gendered orientation) While women have traditionally been socialized out of the role of farm heir, gendered aspects of succession on AFAE’s are anticipated to be handled differently. This study utilizes a qualitative, case study approach to assess the processes of succession and role of gender within AFAEs at the RUI, by comparing and contrasting the process of succession among different types of family farm enterprises at the RUI. Products of this research include peer-reviewed publications, Extension Fact Sheets, and presentations at local and national conferences. Results will be disseminated to Extension agents, state officials, planners and other interested parties with an interest in farmland retention at the RUI.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Develop a framework for understanding the role of succession and gender within AFAE’s and traditional commodity farmers located at the RUI: 1) Identify how the processes of succession parallel or deviate among different types of enterprises: (a) traditional commodity versus AFAE and (b) between types of AFAE’s: first generation versus multi-generation enterprises. 2) Identify policy recommendations for facilitating succession planning at the RUI. Comprehend how the processes of succession contributes to the persistence of agriculture at the RUI. Provide institutions and agencies with empirically based data to design policies and tools for managing farming and development at the RUI. Disseminate results to farmers, agency and academic audiences through: Fact Sheets, agency bulletins and presentations. Disseminate results through peer reviewed journal articles and presentations.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.