Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Shoshanah M. Inwood


This thesis argues for the consideration of child care accessibility and costs as one factor in the success and wellbeing of farmers in the United States. There is a long tradition in rural studies of recognizing that farms are not just economic enterprises but are family-based social enterprises as well, with household level issues and family roles that are both acknowledged and contested. However, child care is missing from virtually all scholarly and public discussions of agricultural workforce development - even more so than other social services and family supports. Additionally, the agricultural sector, considered as a portion of U.S. businesses and as a locus of U.S. family life, is missing from most discussions of child care services. Although child care has been shown to be crucial to workforce development, and the need for workforce development in the agricultural sector is vital in light of an aging farm population, the agricultural sector has remained largely absent from child care policy discussions. This two-article thesis seeks to inform scholarship and public policy in both of these areas.

Using data from a national survey of 186 farm families at the Rural-Urban Interface, Article One examines child care challenges faced by farm families and the influence community networks have on these challenges. This article focuses specifically on two groupings of farmers: multi-generation (MG) and first generation (FG) farmers, as part of a larger effort to support beginning farmers; and men and women farmers, as challenges related to child care are of particular concern for the increasing numbers of women farmers, who may have multiple roles including primary child caregiver, wage-earner through off-farm employment, and farmer. Findings establish that child care is an issue that influences farm business decisions for farmers, that FG and women farmers are farming populations that are more likely to have challenges with child care, and that family networks are an influencing factor in child care problems for MG and FG farmers.

Through analysis of interviews and focus groups with 43 farmers in the Northeastern United States, a geographic region chosen for its high concentration of female farmers, Article Two seeks to understand child care in farm families by examining patterns in farmers' experiences with child care and the ways child care affects both the farm family and the farm business. Findings reveal child care as an issue in the wellbeing of both farm family and farm business: child care has economic effects on the farm business, influencing decisions about labor, growth, and financial resources; child care also has social effects on the farm family, including shifts in gender roles, stress, and reduced quality of life.

Recommendations include child care subsidies specifically for farm families and the creation of formal child care networks that could allow for collaboration and use of already-existing networks of agricultural organizations: Extension, food policy councils, and producer groups. Additionally, state level departments of family and youth services, local child care organizations, and community development corporations are urged to tailor their resources specifically to farm families.



Number of Pages

165 p.