May 09, 2008 Seminar
Household and Farm Transitions in Environmental Context.
Myron P. Gutmann, The University of Michigan
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between changes in household composition and the structure and dynamics of farm activity, making use of a sample of farms and farm families in 25 Kansas townships between 1875 and 1930, in the context of community demographic change and environmental characteristics important to agricultural land-use choices. These townships are selected to represent a diverse set of environmental contexts, in order to allow environmental variation to play a role in the analysis. The data are drawn from unusually rich information available with great frequency over a long period of time. We find support for an extensification hypothesis - that farmers increased their land holdings over their lifecourse to provide a living for their families and land for their grown sons, and contracted their holdings later in life as their labor was less productive and children left home, but that the scale of farm size was driven by available moisture. We additionally find support for an intensification hypothesis - that growing families were increasingly able to control their land, and that they did this by converting land from grassland to cropland, and increasing the intensification of their cropping once all usable land was in crops.
Co-Authors: Susan Leonard, University of Michigan
Myron Gutmann, University of Michigan
Glenn Deane, SUNY University at Albany
Kenneth M Sylvester, University of Michigan