Date of this Version
Agricultural production responds to social, political, economic, environmental, and technological drivers that influence producers’ decisions and shape the individual systems through modification of management practices, crop and livestock mix, and marketing strategy. We use an interview and discussion approach with producer panels to examine production systems in the eastern United States and explore key drivers impacting their unique characteristics and development. The internal social driver that values the farming lifestyle is a principle factor that leads people to choose farming. Irrespective of location, farming is first and foremost a lifestyle choice. The choice of type of production system is partly a lifestyle preference and partly influenced by other external factors, including economic and environmental elements. A second principle driver is economic, arising from a need to make a living, and tempers the internal social driver. Economic return is partially a function of the marketability of products. Marketing channels are dependent on social drivers, including education of producers and consumers, community support and community values. Farmers in the Northeast are able to take a more active role in determining contract terms than those in the Southeast, and are also more aggressive in developing new markets. Development of local markets and community support strengthens the link between farmers and consumers, and reinforces the economic sustainability of Northeastern production systems. With decreased reliance on external risk reduction approaches, Northeastern producers bear greater risk, but also have greater flexibility in altering the crop and livestock mix and are better able to respond to consumer demand.