Faith, Family and Farming: The Survival of Small and Mid-Sized Farms in Lancaster, PA throughout the Twentieth Century

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Paul Sabin
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Throughout the twentieth century, U.S. farm structure and size trended toward fewer but larger farms, with serious negative implications for environmental and human health. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is an example of a functioning farming region based on small and mid-sized family farms. This paper explores Lancaster's farming history, from its origins in eighteenth century colonial subsistence farming, through its “golden era” in the 1920's, and concludes in its agricultural zoning battles throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. The county has not been immune to the consolidating effects of government subsidy payments, mechanization and changing land use. However, Lancastrians' had a strong commitment to a “sense of place” that caused them to confront head-on the powerful forces that had consolidated small farms across the nation. Their desire to sustain the lucrative tourist industry, and the religious Amish community's belief that farming is the only way to live a proper life combined to create a powerful narrative of a specific place in time. Lancaster's story speaks to the power of community, the commitment to farming as a way of life, and the importance of family values... Faith, Family and Farming.