Abstract from Morgan Carnes’s Master’s thesis titled “Land-use Change and Social Values in Micropolitan Communities in the Upper Missouri River Basin”
Agriculture makes up a significant portion of the United States economy and plays a prominent role in the cultural identity of this country. Small farms, associated with rurality and small towns, are disappearing with the expansion of large farming operations and urban and industrial development. There are many cultural values that are associated with small towns, small farms, and the agrarian lifestyle. I used a multi-case approach to analyze four micropolitan communities in the Upper Missouri River Basin to discover the impact of development and increasing farm sizes and social values on small towns and agrarian lifestyles. I conducted 34 semi-structured interviews in Bozeman, Montana; Gillette, Wyoming; Mitchell, South Dakota; and Williston, North Dakota. I analyzed this data using NVivo12 coding software with descriptive coding techniques. This research revealed many common themes, though the ten most prevalent are the focus of this chapter. These themes include family farming and ranching, the importance of using land for agricultural production, development, energy production, small-town spirit and Main Street, open spaces, hunting, policies and industries that support agriculture, and that the loss of small farms. This report explores the predominant themes in each individual case and then discusses the ways in which the cases compare and intersect. I then explore the origins of our country’s ties to agrarian lifestyle and values. I briefly explore the history of settler-colonialism and settlement policies, such as the Homestead and Dawes Acts, which displaced Native Americans and encouraged European American settlement. This discussion of the history of settler-colonialism in this country helps to contextualize the roots of the values revealed in this research. This research examines social values as they relate to agriculture and land-use changes among a small group of stakeholders within the Upper Missouri River Basin and explores the history of land use in the region.
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