Small Town and Rural Economic Development: A Case Studies Approach

By Peter V. Schaeffer; Scott Loveridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Recreational and Tourism Development vs. the Decline of Agriculture in Southern Utah

Don E. Albrecht


INTRODUCTION

Throughout most of its history, the United States has been a nation of farmers and farm communities. Since 1940, however, a series of technological developments made it possible for farmers to operate much larger farms. Thus, the size of the average farm increased and the number of farms declined ( Albrecht and Murdock 1990; Cochrane 1979). The displacement of human beings that resulted, and the social and economic transformations of farm communities, has been called one of the most astonishing peacetime events of this century ( Beale 1993). The raw numbers are striking: the number of farms declined from more than 6 million in 1940 to less than 2 million in 1992; and the farm population declined from more than 30 million in 1940 to about 3.9 million in 1990. In 1940, the farm population comprised nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population; by 1990, this proportion was less than 2 percent.

The mechanization of agriculture and subsequent out-migration of farm families represented the death knell for many farm communities. Population declines were made even more severe because many businesses in these communities were forced to close as their primary clientele moved away. As a result, between 1940 and 1970, there were hundreds of farm communities where the population declined by more than half ( Beale 1978; Larson 1981). The problems resulting from the massive population reductions in farm communities are numerous and have been extensively researched (e.g., Rogers 1982). They include a decline in the quality and quantity of community services, the consolidation of schools, a loss of tax base, and erosion of community spirit and morale.

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