Recent census data indicate that, in all regions of the country, an increasingly large proportion of individuals and families operating farms in the United States are choosing to live in urban and rural communities rather than on the farmstead. In this paper, hypotheses are developed and tested to help explain and understand this phenomenon, and the variations that exist from county to county. County-level data from the 1978 and 1987 Census of Agriculture and the 1980 and 1990 Census of Population are analyzed. It was found that counties with larger proportions of farm families living in the community include those where agriculture is less mechanized, where there are high levels of part-time farming, where the total population is smaller, and where gross farm sales are greater. Counties with the most extensive declines in farm population included those with larger farm sales and where the total county population was smaller.

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