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The community loses when it loses farmers: impacts of a changing local farmland market

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Title: The community loses when it loses farmers: impacts of a changing local farmland market
Author(s): Mattos, Daniela
Director of Research: Salamon, Sonya
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Salamon, Sonya
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Gasteyer, Stephen; Reisner, Ann; Schnitkey, Gary
Department / Program: Human & Community Development
Discipline: Human & Community Development
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): community farming farmland market community participation community impacts of the restructured farmland market.
Abstract: An ethnographic community case study was conducted to document the impact of recent farmland-market changes on the social fabric of a small, typical Central Illinois rural community of 1,000. Using a multi-method research design, data were obtained from: 1) extensive participant-observation of community life (2005-06); 2) 124 community and farmer surveys and in-depth background interviews; and 3) population and agricultural census data. The restructuring of local farmland markets by growing farm concentration, cash-rent replacing crop-share leasing, and the invasion of aggressive non-local landlords and operators raises 21st century challenges to Midwestern rural-community sustainability. The Goldschmidt Hypothesis, which argues that large-scale farms undermine a community’s social-economic well-being, and social capital theory, which holds that broad engagement builds a strong community social fabric, are employed in analyzing the social impacts of agricultural restructuring. Findings indicate that the emerging restructured land market and the consequent increased competitiveness undermine the trust and norms of reciprocity among farmers and between farmers and town-residents. The ideal of “bigger is better” chased by local farmers has the unintended consequence of eroding the historically important community participation of local farmers. Farmers are now involved in only those activities that directly affect them and less so in activities that broadly contribute to community well-being, such as service clubs. Farmers and townspeople often travel to work which results in the transfer of their shopping, services obtained, and recreational activities from local providers to where they work in the county seat or nearby cities. Both farmers and townspeople report knowing fewer community members than 10 years ago, reflecting a decline in network size, and the regular social interactions indicative of close-knit community. These factors are leading to the decline of the historically interdependent relationship between farmers and their community, and the degrading of a sense of community. Essentially a bedroom community is evolving from the former farming community spurred by the new farmland market as well as some newcomers moving in.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34393
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Daniela M. Mattos
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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