Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. LouAnn Wurst

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Nassaney

Third Advisor

Dr. Sarah Hill

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


Until the early twentieth century a substantial portion of the American population lived in rural farm communities. The Hector Backbone, in Schuyler County New York, provides a unique opportunity to explore the process of farm abandonment. Hector farms were abandoned throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century. However, in the 1930s the Federal Government purchased many farms on the Hector Backbone citing poor soil for the unfavorable conditions ofthe farms. These interpretations appear to be inaccurate. Given this context, in order to understand the complexities of farm abandonment, a theoretical model that focuses on production and labor is necessary. Marxist theory provides the tools I deem essential to understand the process of farm abandonment. Archaeological analyses of food production artifacts and landscapes show that smaller, older households were less engaged with agricultural production and more engaged with the purchase of store bought foods when compared to younger, larger households. The data indicate that the demographic changes appear to have inhibited production within the household and preconditioned the abandonment of farms on the Hector Backbone.

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