The evolution of agricultural resource use strategies in the Willamette Valley Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/ft848t16q

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  • Agriculture in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, has undergone continual change since the annual migrations of American pioneer farmers began to arrive in the early 1840's. The comparisons of data from each of the agricultural censuses of Oregon counties taken since 1850 confirms that change has been continual. The data revealed that the strategies of agricultural resource use employed by the valley's farmers, and which guided their agricultural practices, have also been continually modified or upgraded. The purpose of the study was to document the evolution of agricultural resource use strategies which were implemented in the Willamette Valley during the course of its growth and development. Two general assumptions were made that provided the organizational framework for the analysis. The agricultural resource use strategies were considered to have evolved from simpler to more complex forms, and agriculture was considered as a resource use system comparable to general systems. An analogy was made between the agricultural system of the Willamette Valley and a general system characterized by rapid growth and development. The development of the agricultural system was divided into a threefold chronology of growth stages. The analysis of changes in farm characteristics, total agricultural acreage, and crop and livestock production trends supported the threefold growth stage concept. Growth curves depicting data from each agricultural census on farm characteristics, agricultural acreage, crops, and livestock show several conspicuous similarities. On the basis of the similarities delimiting dates were selected for the theorized growth stages. Strategies favoring self-sufficing farms were predominan between 1840 and 1900. Strategies of diversified agricultural production prevailed between 1900 and 1950. In the third and current growth stage, beginning in 1950, farmers increasingly adopted strategies of highly specialized single enterprise farming at larger scales of operation. Once the growth stages' delimiting dates were decided upon they permitted an easier analysis of all the agricultural census data that was examined. The treatment of agriculture in the Willamette Valley as an open resource use system tied its structure and functioning to influences of simultaneous systematic developments occurring outside of agriculture.
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