Northern Illinois University Press

First Majority—Last Minority

The Transforming of Rural Life in America

John L. Shover

Nineteen of every twenty Americans were farmers in 1790; in 1970, nineteen of every twenty were not. They left because advancing technology swept their family farms into the corporate system.

John T. Shover provides dramatic documentation of the disintegration of the small family farm with its highly individualistic mores, and the simultaneous monolithic growth of centralized farm management with its computer programs. But this is more than mere technological progress. When farm families that have lived on the land for generations sell their holdings, move to the city, and adapt to urban values, a radical change takes place in the social fabric of America. When investors in the city acquire vast rural holdings and the concomitant political power, the broad democratic base of the traditional rural vote can be folded neatly into a vest pocket. The technical revolution in American agriculture is in a very real sense a radical social revolution. What has been the result? Not a cornucopia with cheap and abundant food for all, but an agricultural crisis manifested in ever-spiraling food prices, deterioration of competition in food production, threatening economic catastrophe, and potential world famine.

This book is the first to attempt to synthesize and interpret both the broad scope and the subtle implications of changes that have transformed American farmers from the nation's first majority to its last minority. Ignored, neglected, misunderstood—agriculture in America is one of the critical problems confronting our nation at this time.

(1976) 358 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-522-1
Paper $18.00

Table of Contents

Foreword: Moses Rischin
Part 1. Tradition and Transition: Before 1945
I. The Ways of Change
II. Of Lands and Peoples
III. From Community to Society
Scioto Township, Ohio
Bedford County, Pennsylvania
IV. Family Farming in the Middle West
Tarpleywick, Van Buren County, Iowa
Stadtfeld's Farm, Mecosta County, Michigan
Part 2. The Great Disjuncture: Since 1945
V. Technology Takes Over
VI. Agribusiness Triumphs
VII. The Role of the Federal Government
VIII. The World Food Crisis
Bibliographical Note

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-522-1
paper $18.00