Nonmetropolitan America in Transition

By Amos H. Hawley; Sara Mills Mazie | Go to book overview

4
Agriculture and the Community

INTRODUCTION

How do the characteristics of farms and farm people bear upon the attributes and problems of small communities in America? How do the distinctive qualities and functions of these communities influence farms as production units and the quality of life of farming people? What are the effects of current changes and trends on the interrelationships of agriculture and the rural community? The main purpose of the present chapter is to review in a summary manner current knowledge about the answers to these questions. Some implications for rural development policy will also be discussed.

The reader should be aware at the outset of some important limitations faced in this review. First, there is a dearth of timely and specific studies on the interrelationships of agriculture and the community. Second, comprehensive information about rural communities and recent social change in American rural society does not equal that available in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, aside from demographic and similar census-type data. This is because systematic nationwide studies that would provide this information have not been continued.1 Third, some of the statistical information that is available nationwide on farms and farm people must be used with caution, especially in interpreting trends. For example, the U.S. Census of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture data on the number of farms classified by gross sales of products cannot be used as a valid measure of recent trends in the distribution of farms by size without adjusting for changing price levels. Thus, the unadjusted figures show that farms with sales of $20,000 or more increased from 340,000 in 1960 to 831,000 in 1977, giving the impression that the number of commercial farms more than doubled. However, when an adjustment is made for inflated prices, the number of farms equivalent to those having sales of $20,000 or more in 1977 is found to have

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