Blue over Green? Defining Typologies of Rural Landowners Growing Blueberry in Place of Forests in Georgia, United States

Abstract

Ricardian Rent Theory is typically used for analyzing land use change decisions of rural landowners. However, to the best of our knowledge no study focuses on the motivations of landowners for their land use change decisions in general and deforestation in particular. This information is important for southern Georgia, where more than 6,000 ha of evergreen forestland were moved into blueberry production between 2010 and 2017. We surveyed 34 family landowners who had moved to blueberry production to ascertain their motivations and analyzed the data using Q-methodology to categorize them into four typologies: Family Oriented landowners grow blueberry as a family legacy; Value Seeking landowners want higher value over time from their land; Environmental Cautious landowners grow blueberry for profit, but recognize a link between deforestation and blueberry expansion; finally, Profit Motivated landowners grow blueberry for higher profits in a short period and clearly recognize forestry as a long-term investment. The majority of surveyed blueberry farmers suggested that with appropriate financial incentives, they would practice forestry rather than higher risk blueberry farming. Our findings provide insights for policymakers in designing incentives for achieving sustainable land management and ensuring the multifunctionality of rural landscapes in Georgia and surrounding states facing similar issues.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the University of Georgia Extension personnel and participating farmers for their participation allowing the successful completion of this study.

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Correspondence to Suraj Upadhaya.

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An approval (#STUDY00005446) from the University of Georgia’s Institutional Review Board was obtained before undertaking surveys.

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Upadhaya, S., Dwivedi, P. Blue over Green? Defining Typologies of Rural Landowners Growing Blueberry in Place of Forests in Georgia, United States. Hum Ecol 47, 693–703 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-019-00095-7

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Keywords

  • Deforestation
  • Land-use change motivations
  • Family landowners
  • Q method
  • Blueberry farming
  • Southern Georgia