Larger and fewer farms: Patterns and causes of farm enlargement on the central Great Plains, 1930-1978

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The interplay of three factors-availability of marginal land for intensification, patterns of technological change in agriculture, and the economic viability of farms-best explains spatial and temporal patterns of farm enlargement in the central Great Plains between 1930 and 1978. Prior to World War II average farm size grew most rapidly in the western portions of the Plains, where drought forced many small operators out of business and where adequate income could only be realized on larger acreages. In more humid areas, farmers were better able to intensify land use, which reduced pressures to expand their operations. After the late 1950s, improved opportunities for intensification in the western plains led to relatively stable farm size. Rapid farm expansion shifted to eastern plains counties, where intensification had previously taken place. Adoption of yield-enhancing technologies required additional mechanization and increased total farm output, thereby intensifying the cost-price squeeze and increasing expansionary pressures. © 1993 Academic Press Limited.

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Journal of Historical Geography