Date of Award
Master of Science
Billy J. Trevena
Dave Brown, Brady Deaton
Forty percent of farm operators in the 12-county Upper East Tennessee region have expanded their farmland base at one time or another. Consolidation of small farm units into larger ones has been an important adjustment strategy that the nation's farmers have used to maintain or improve their farm income. The gains from this strategy are not clear in Upper East Tennessee. In the region, those farmers who have expanded their land base own an average of 93 acres, more than twice the holdings of farmers who have not expanded. Nevertheless, 93 acres is substantially below the state average of more than 120 acres for all farms. Although net and gross farm incomes generated on expanded farms were significantly higher than on the non expansion farms, the difference does not appear to be very important. In 1974, average gross farm income for the expansion group was $7,354 while that for the non-expansion group was $3,342. Neither income is representative of a very large operation. In 1975, 25 percent of farm operators in the region expanded their land resources by renting in part of the land that they used. Another 4 percent were tenants who rented in all of the land that they farmed. This represents a continuing trend toward more rental and less ownership of farmland. Still, the majority of the region's farmers own all the land which they farm. In most farm areas in the United States, the process of farmland consolidation has led to increases in the average farm size which is characteristic of an area. The average farm size in Upper East Tennessee is presently about 60 acres and has not changed appreciably in the last 25 years. Increases in the number of small part-time and hobby farms have been off-set by decreases in the number of small full-time farms. Likewise the consolidation of medium sized farms into larger ones has been off-set by the processes of farm fragmentation. Evidence from this study indicate that farmers in Upper East Tennessee have been unable to pursue successfully a strategy of farmland consolidation because land has been relatively scarce in both a physical and economic sense. The region is traversed by four mountain ranges and has proportionately less Class I-III land than the state as a whole. Furthermore, non farm growth in the region has been substantial. Popu-lation density and growth in land area devoted to urban and built-up uses are both above the state average. The price of farmland in the region has increased by a factor of five since the 1940's to a current average of $718 per acre. Industrial and urban growth since the 1950 s are responsible for this surge. Industry has not only affected farmland price by competing for it directly, but it has provided jobs for many of the farmers. Forty-nine percent of the region's farmers were employed full-time off the farm in 1975. Secure off-farm income has made the operator less dependent on farm income and more likely to view land as a speculative as well as a productive asset.
Coyle, William T., "Farmland consolidation and fragmentation in Upper East Tennessee. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1976.