PR - Civic Engagement Issues In Agricultural Economies (p505-512)
The relationship between farm structure and community well-being has been frequently researched. Conclusions were drawn that rural communities had better socioeconomic conditions when small to medium family farms were prevalent. Other research reported civic engagement had greater impact on rural well-being than farm structure and farm structure was correlated with civic engagement. The research objective of this study was to determine the relationship between civic engagement and farm structure.
The study population consisted of farming dependent counties in the Corn Belt Region of the United States. These counties had an average population loss of 2% between 1990 and 2000, an average population density of 6 people per square kilometre, and an average farm size of 233 hectare.
Six variables representing farm structure and four demographic variables were included in the regression model as independent variables. A hierarchal regression model was used to determine the relationship between civic engagement and farm structure. Voting participation and church membership were proxies for civic engagement and used as the dependent variable in two separate models.
For both voting participation and church membership, the hypothesis of no relationship between farm structure and civic engagement was rejected. The model containing the dependent variable voting participation had three variables relatively important with an adjusted R2 of .31. The important variables were home ownership, part-time farmers, and off-farm residence. The complete model containing the dependent variable church membership had an adjusted R2 of .58 and contained six relatively important variables. These variables were small businesses per capita, home ownership, part-time farmers, off-farm residence, not sole proprietors, and hired farm workers.
Community leaders need to understand the dynamics of the changing farm structure at work in their communities and find solutions aimed at increasing civic engagement levels. University educators, elected officials and community can affect civic engagement by encouraging the development and retention of small sustainable agricultural and non-agricultural businesses and developing programs that promote home ownership in rural communities.
Keywords: Civic Engagement; Leadership; Farm Structure; Education