The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study

By John Donald Black | Go to book overview
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Trends, Prospects, Potentials

The reader surely by this time is ready to say that all the major sectors of the rural land-use economy of New England have been analyzed with reasonable care and thoroughness. The ten factors of change described in Chapter 1 have been considered in each of the land-use settings. We should now be ready to generalize as to the directions in which this economy is pointing and its prospects in the decades ahead. This is the assignment for the present chapter.

There is nothing predetermined about the course of developments in the New England rural economy. Their history will be made by the people of New England. What the farming folk of New England, and the owners of its myriad woodland tracts, and what those who seek homes among its hills or along its highways leading to town, or recreation among its mountains and lakes and along its seashores, and all those who work with and serve these four, whether publicly or privately, and whether as manufacturers, transporters, tradesmen, innkeepers, bankers, publicists, politicians, or public servants, high and low, humble and mighty, choose to do with the land resources of New England, or drift heedlessly into doing with them, will determine the reality of the prospects. The prospects, in sooth, are only potentials.

The over-all statement to make about New England agriculture is that the great retrogression that set in before the Civil War in much of New England began leveling out soon after 1920 and probably reached its limit in the 1940's. There has been recovery since then, in the aggregate, but it has been mild, and perhaps tentative. One cannot be sure how much of what recovery there has been is due to the war and the subsequent increased demand for food, and how much of it will persist. No basis exists for anything except a very moderate recovery in the future. New England agriculture apparently has completed the big readjustment made necessary by the


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