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The Differing Values of Multigeneration and First-Generation Farmers: Their Influence on the Structure of Agriculture at the Rural-Urban Interface


  • We thank Drs. Jeff Sharp and Douglas Jackson-Smith for their support and guidance of this research. We acknowledge support from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, USDA, Grant #2005-35401-15272, and the North Central Region SARE Graduate Student Award.

Address correspondence to Shoshanah Inwood, University of Vermont, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, 207 Morrill Hall, Burlington, VT 05405, phone: 802-656-0257; e-mail:


Recognizing the inherent pressures on farm families and farmland, USDA has been developing policies and programs that simultaneously attempt to retain existing farm families on the landscape, recruit new farmers, and create lasting economic opportunities rooted in agriculture. In this article we argue that to date there has been an overemphasis on economic and structural approaches and a systematic discounting of the way individual farmer and farm household motivations can differ as they relate to the farm household life cycle, enterprise growth, adaptation, and reproduction. We use a sociological lens to qualitatively and quantitatively examine the social differences between multigeneration and first-generation farmers at the rural-urban interface by exploring how economic and noneconomic values influence succession plans and enterprise structure. We find that the answers to these questions are complex, layered, and not static, as farm households cycle through the life course. We describe how the differences between young and old multigeneration and first-generation farmers can influence the structure of agriculture at the rural-urban interface, and conclude with some practical policy recommendations.