Social origins of industrial agriculture: Farm dynamics in California's period of agricultural nascence

Gary Michael McClelland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In the period 1870-1910 world agriculture underwent a global reorganisation, and California's Central Valley was drawn into expanding world commodities and labour markets. Unlike the rest of North America, California's response to world demand for food drew heavily on wage labour. The availability of disadvantaged labour in California allowed the early divergence from national patterns of agricultural development. This article employs a twofold comparative strategy to examine the dynamic character of California's agricultural sector in this period. First, encompassing comparison contrasts California's agriculture to the North American plains and identifies the divergent impact of very similar world-market forces. Second, panel modeling of aggregate countylevel data reveals patterns of change within California's agricultural economy over four decades. Simultaneously modelling changes in the odds of three classes of farms over four decades reveals two dynamic farming sectors with distinct developmental trajectories. The first is based on intensive farming and family labour. The second is based on extensive cropping and wage labour. Both respond differently to the presence of disadvantaged labour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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