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Abstract

Published data and data collected locally for this study were used to examine and describe how dairy farming and the economy have changed in the Green Isle area of Sibley County, Minnesota during the last twenty-five years. Interviews with current and former business owners and operators, farmers, city officials, and other residents were used to determine whether and how changes in dairy farming were responsible for changes in the Green Isle economy. The move from dairy to cash crops and Its impact on the economy were examined as well. Data and information collected from interviews with business owners and operators in Waconia, Minnesota were used to determine the importance of dairy farming to a local economy and to examine how businesses that are relatively close to a metropolitan area adjusted to a declining dairy sector. Changes in the Green Isle economy were found to be linked to changes in dairy farming and the move out of dairy and into cash crops. The impact of the switch from dairy to cash crops had a more significant impact than did changes in dairy farming methods and technology. Three key conclusions related to these findings are: one, not all dairy operations are the same in terms of their impact on the local economy; two, different types of agriculture have different impacts on a local economy; and three, what may be good for the farmer is not always good for the community. As the distance to a metropolitan area increases, the economic impacts of changes in farming are more severe.

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