The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study

By John Donald Black | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Evolution of the Agriculture

New England is today, agriculturally speaking, it appears in Chapter 13, largely a region of dairy cows and fluid milk, hay and pasture, and poultry and vegetables for local consumption -- by what course of history has it come to this? It can also be described as a region mainly of ordinary family-sized farms interspersed freely in many sections with part-time, country -- home, and other residential farms -- for how long has it been like this? To this and similar historical questions is the present chapter devoted. To those who think of types of farming as determined mainly by natural factors, the varied historical sequences to be noted should afford much illumination -- nature hasn't changed much during this time!


SIZE OF FARMS

The changes in size of New England farms, measured in acres, over the years since 1880, shown in detail by counties in Chart 51, have not been pronounced. In fact, it is the smallness of the change that is significant. If all of the economic forces bearing on New England agriculture have produced no greater shifts than appear in the 64 individual counties, surely some strong stabilizing influence must have been at work. That influence has of course been the family farm. The amount of land that an average-sized farm family can work, at the systems of agriculture dominant in the region, has established the prevailing pattern of farm size. This means more land per farm throughout the period in the dairy regions of Vermont and most of New Hampshire than in the poultry, vegetable, and fruit farming regions near the cities and along the coast; but no large changes in either.

The slight trend toward more acres in dairy counties reflects gains in hay and pasture, and in recent years, more use of machinery. The trend down

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