DAIRY INDUSTRIALIZATION AND SPRAWL IN AN UPSTATE NEW YORK COUNTY
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Futrell, William Chad
In this thesis I examine the interaction of agricultural industrialization and sprawl in an upstate New York county. A longitudinal representative case study of dairy farming in Ontario County, NY was conducted in order to evaluate the efficacy of the treadmill of technology and impermanence syndrome hypotheses in explaining dairy farm survival and expansion. According to the treadmill of technology hypothesis, larger farmers are more likely to adopt capital and management-intensive technology. They are then more likely to expand their operations in part to increase the returns on their investment. Those farmers that do not adopt these technologies are more likely to exit agricultural production. The impermanence syndrome hypothesis, on the other hand, holds that farms located in areas experiencing urban sprawl are likely to experience a number of negative externalities, including complaints about their operations. These farmers are less likely to continue investing in their farms because they foresee selling their land to developers. These farmers are thus more likely to exit agricultural production. The case study site, Ontario County, NY, was chosen because it has experienced many of the processes representative of the Northeast. Namely, the County is a traditional dairy farming area where the number of farms has been declining and the size of farms increasing. Also, the traditionally rural County is experiencing increasing urban sprawl emanating from Rochester. I collected primary and secondary qualitative and quantitative data on the County in order to build the case study. Qualitative data included numerous site visits and interviews with community leaders and residents in order to understand the historical and socio-economic context. Quantitative data included Census of Agriculture data on the County?s agricultural sector, with particular emphasis on dairy farming. I also used national Census data and tax parcel data to chart population and housing flows as well as the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. Finally, the case study hinges upon surveys conducted on a group of Ontario County dairy farmers in 1993, 1998, and 2002. While the original intention of the study was to follow 50 dairy farmers over a 10 year period, the high number of farm exits among the group made this impossible. As such, my thesis discusses the results of the initial survey along with the farmers still dairy farming in 1998 and 2002. Employing the analytic technique of pattern matching, the case study produced contradictory findings in terms of the two hypotheses examined. In terms of the treadmill of technology hypothesis, the on-farm panel surveys showed that adopting capital-intensive technologies increased the likelihood of expanding production to become a very large dairy farm but did not necessarily ensure that the farm would continue dairy farming. In terms of the impermanence syndrome hypothesis, the results show that scholars must be more precise when operationalizing their studies. While scholars have generally used the perception of sprawl as a proxy for objectively measured sprawl, the perception of sprawl was strongly associated with farm exit in the 1993 survey with objective sprawl being a stronger indicator in the 1998 survey. Likewise, complaints from neighbors were more associated with the size of the dairy farm than the existence of urban sprawl. I showed that the treadmill of technology and impermanence syndrome hypotheses should not necessarily be seen as rival hypotheses but rather complement one another. That is, farms located in more rural areas are more likely to expand their production than those located in sprawl areas. Also, larger farms are more likely to perceive sprawl, in part because they are more likely to receive complaints.
Thomas A. Lyson; Max J. Pfeffer; Gilbert W. Gillespie, Jr.
USDA Regional Project NE-177 Structural Transformation of the Dairy Industry
Agricultural Transformation; Agricultural Industrialization; Sprawl; Farmland Conversion; Treadmill of Technology; Impermanence Syndrome; Dairy Farm
dissertation or thesis