Faculty Research and Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2002


Between 1935 and 1992, the number of farms in the United States decreased from approximately seven million to fewer than two million. This change left a noticeable imprint on the landscape. Working farmsteads have been reduced to idle, desolate buildings, or in some cases there are no buildings left at all. To study this transformation, black and white air photographs from 1950 were compared with 1990 air photographs. Also, plat books and ground checks in four townships in Watonwan County in southwestern Minnesota helped document changes. Farmsteads were abandoned or demolished because people began to find they could not economically support their families in the farming industry. Many moved to nearby communities in search of urban jobs, leaving the out-buildings behind to deteriorate over time or to be destroyed. This research records the physical changes of farmsteads on the Minnesota landscape by mapping the abandoned, demolished, or still lived in farmhouses in the four townships. Although abandoned farmsteads have increased, new uses for the rural landscape have emerged. One of these enterprises, commercial hog farming, reveals a viable alternative use of the fossil farmsteads.


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Geography Commons