Rural sociology is a field of sociology associated with the study of social life in rural areas. It is an active field in much of the world, and in the United States originated in the 1910s with close ties to the national Department of Agriculture and land-grant university colleges of agriculture. The sociology of food and agriculture is one focus of rural sociology and much of the field is dedicated to the economics of farm production. Other areas of study include rural migration and other demographic patterns, environmental sociology, amenity-led development, public lands policies, so-called "boomtown" development, social disruption, the sociology of natural resources (including forests, mining, fishing and other areas), rural cultures and identities, rural health care and educational policies. Many rural sociologists work in the areas of development studies, community studies, community development and in environmental studies. Much of the research involves the Third World. Sociology, Rural
CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH EMPHASES
INTERNATIONAL RURAL DEVELOPMENT
The discipline of rural sociology addresses how communities and areas with few people are socially and economically organized, what patterns of social interaction occur among residents within these areas and elsewhere, and why and how communities change over time. Its early practitioners were active members in the rural sociology section of the American Sociological Society (later renamed as the American Sociological Association) until 1937. In that year, they founded the independent Rural Sociological Society (RSS) to promote teaching, research, and extension outreach. Since then, membership in the Society increased from seventy-nine to slightly less than one thousand academic scholars, professionals, and students in the new millenium. The first newsletter of the rural section appeared in 1925. The RSS published the newsletter as Newsline from the 1970s through 1980 and subsequently asThe Rural Sociologist with the purpose to spread news about the vitality of rural sociology among its practitioners and others interested in the discipline. HISTORICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
Rural sociological scholarship has a long tradition involving people, communities, and natural resources due in part to its location in the university land-grant system. In 1997 Norwood Kerr discussed the founding of the American land-grant university system by the Morrill Land-Grant College Acts of 1862 and 1890, the latter for traditionally black institutions in southern states. These acts introduced the movement led by Connecticut and thirteen other states to establish agricultural experiment stations to specifically address the development of practical agricultural information for rural farmers and ranchers through scientific investigations. The movement culminated in 1887 with the passage of the Hatch Act that forged the federal-state partnership for funding “scientific agriculture.” The public service counterpart to the Hatch Act followed in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. It assigned to the new cooperative extension service the task providing to ordinary people access to their state universities for assistance regarding a broad array of issues affecting themselves, and their families, businesses, and local governments. Early rural sociology programs and their research were and continue to be mostly affiliated with institutional partnerships between universities and agricultural experiment stations along with cooperative extension both at the state level and with counterparts in the United States Department of Agriculture. Following the pioneering the work of sociologists such as W. E. B. Du Bois and F. H. Gidding, rural sociology was significantly influenced by the Country Life Commission that was appointed by PresidentTheodore Roosevelt. The Commission’s 1909 report on twelve rural communities pointed to problems of poverty, crime, population change, and...
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