Farmer survivability in Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


A study focusing on farm financial stress in Virginia was conducted to provide information to educators. The financial situation of Virginia farmers during the 1980's was reviewed. The years 1983, 1984, and 1985 were determined to be the time during the 1980s when farmers' financial situations were most severely stressed.

Attention was directed towards corn, soybean, and wheat farmers since this group was readily identifiable as being financially stressed. Fifteen personal interviews of farmers were conducted in seven counties where the majority of these crops are grown. For comparison purposes, part of the interviews were conducted with individuals who are still farming and part with individuals who were forced to exit farming due to financial adversity.

Comparing the information gathered from farmers in a favorable financial condition with the information gathered from those farmers in a vulnerable financial condition, some factors that helped farmers survive the agricultural depression of the 1980’s were discovered. Farmers in favorable financial condition are superior managers, operate timely businesses, borrow and spend conservatively, are more educated, have more years of farming experience, and use better financial and production recordkeeping practices. Access to marketing information is also important for farmer survivability. Producers in favorable financial condition own larger percentages of their operated land, and they utilize more family labor.