The Influence of Pluriactivity, Family Farming, and Concentration of Capital on Farm Size Distribution in Southwest Michigan

Thomas, B., A. Rudy, and C. Harris

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2002-10-04 )

The structure of agriculture at the regional level plays an important role in shaping ecological change.  Various authors have suggested that size of farm affects the impact of agriculture on the biophysical environment.  This project involves analysis of 50 years of agricultural census data for ten southwestern Michigan counties.  In particular, we are looking at factors influencing changes in farm size distribution.  We have found that, particularly since 1974, farm size distribution has become increasingly bimodal, with increases in the proportion of farms more than 500 acres and less than 50 acres in size and decreases in the proportion of farms from 50 to 500 acres in size.  In order to identify social forces that may be related to this trend, we focused on data from 1974 to 1997 and looked at three sets of relationships: levels of pluriactivity and numbers of small farms, number of family farms and numbers of medium size farms, and concentration of capital and numbers of large farms.  There are significant relationships between levels of pluriactivity and small farms, and between family farms and medium farms.  There does not appear to be a relationship, however, between concentration of capital and large farms. Figure 1.

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