Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Von Thunen and intensification

JH von Thunen was a German farmer and economist who lived about 200 years ago (which makes him even older than me!). In the Devon rents paper, we successfully tested his theory that rents decline with distance from the market. He had another, less well-known theory. He argued that the intensity of agricultural production would increase the closer the farm was to the market. The rent would be higher, and so the farmer would 'work' his (or her!) land harder.

Amy and Malcolm,  you helped me to calculate the ratio between farmers and agricultural labourers, using data from the 1851 census. I built a shapefile using the locations and the ratios and then 'kriged' the shapefile to get an interpolated surface. I put the ratio values for each location into the observations for our 609 parishes in the southwest of England. Finally I plotted the ratio for each parish against its distance from London. The result is the graph below.

Isn't this fascinating? You can see quite plainly that the ratio decreases with increasing distance from London. The farmer employs less labour the further away he is from the market. The furthest distance represents Cornwall at the extreme west. There the ratio is very small, so probably most of the farmer's family were involved in work on the farm. Looks like von Thunen was right!

1 comment:

Malcolm V L said...

Is there a potential correlation also involving population. I'm guessing that rural population density decreases the further you are from London. Could that not also explain the decreasing farmer/labourer ratio?

@ArcGIS: Kriging and IDW are excellent functions. I'm using them to create surfaces of Temp & Precip data from 200+ weather stations in the big 12 wheat-producing counties.