The Rural Revolution
REDUCED ISOLATION. Two generations ago the isolation. of rural life could be measured by the contrast between the styles shown in the Sears, Roebuck catalog and those on the , pages of a metropolitan newspaper. Today the styles are similar. The automobile and good roads have wrought a transformation of rural and village life which is difficult for the present generation of students to paper elate. Thousands of small villages are no longer self-contained communities, as good roads have carried their trade, their store keepers, their professionals, and their recreation to a nearby city. If close enough to the city, they have become suburbs; if too distant, some have become the half-empty shells of decaying houses and aging people. Transportation Transportation plus the press, movies, radio, and television have pended the social isolation of rural America. the true provincial today may be the urban slum dweller, who may spend years without venturing beyond one set of canyons, or possibly the suburbanite living in a one-class, one-age-group, one-race neighborhood.
COMMERCIALIZATION AND RATIONALIZATION
OF AGRICULTURE. Without a revolution in agricultural productivity, there could have been little urban growth. In 1790 it required the surplus of nine farm households to support one urban household; today forty-six non farm households are supported by each farm household. Farming used to be a way of life which called for no special knowledge beyond that which farm youth absorbed unavoidably as they grew up. Today farming is a highly complex operation demanding substantial capital and specialized knowledge. The most successful farmers today not only use the latest fang technology but also study market trends and trade in commodities futures
more actively than most readers of the Wall Tree! Journal. The “average” American farm (in 1980) represented land and buildings wort $25.0,000, plus another $6000or so worth of machinery, livestock, and other assets. Its operator had an “average” outcome of$23,800, of which only $9,000 came from farm operations. These figures do not add. up. They
show the “average” farm returning less than 3 percent on investment with nothing for the farmer’s work. The confusion arises from the census definition of a “farm” as any land under single management which produces
over $1,000 worth of farm products, Thus the “average” farm includes many small part time operations, Fewer than two out of five “farms” in 1980 produced as much as $20,000 from farm products (sales, not net income).
The operators of the fanns producing less than $20,000 in sales received 8S percent of their income from other sources. If only the full-time farm operations are Considered; then, a farm investment in the $6OO,!X)O-rang we could be the “average.” Today’s successful farm is a roofless factory, using a variety of managerial skills comparable to those needed forany other business. This combination of large scale commercialized farming with large-scale marketing is called agribusiness, As farming has grown more demanding, the number of farms has fallen sharply-from 5.4 million in 1950 to 2,5 million in 1978. Meanwhile, the average size of farms has
steadily increased-from 215 acres in 1950 to 415 acres in 1978 [Statistical Abstract, 1981, pp. 662,664].