Rural communities shrink as farms grow

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Rural communities shrink as farms grow

A University of Missouri rural sociology professor says a spike in farm sizes in the last 30 years has hurt rural communities.

Mary Hendrickson said rural communities are disappearing because of dramatic growth in farm sizes. She said as farms got larger, there was less need for smaller shops to get farming inputs at.

“As farms got larger and bought their inputs in different places, you didn’t have as many farmers, you didn’t have as many agricultural businesses there, you didn’t have the small processors there because they’re consolidated into these larger ones,” she said. “And you just really hollowed out these communities.”

She said that has led to the ‘collapse of social relationships’ in farming. Hendrickson points to a farmer in northeast Missouri who grew his operation as other farmers retired…

“And then he says, ‘I did that, and I got bigger and I grew my operation up to 5,000 acres and I started looking around and I’m like, I don’t have any neighbors anymore’,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said if food production systems continue to consolidate, so will farming. Hendrickson spoke on a Family Farm Action Alliance zoom call Thursday.