Mapping the “Back 50”: Exploring Household Motivations for and Effects of Agricultural Change on Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1968-Present

Alexandra Neumann, Student at Arizona State University

This paper pairs public participatory GIS (PPGIS) with traditional historical analysis to illustrate household-level land-use change during agricultural industrialization on Prince Edward Island (PEI) over the past 50 years. PEI presents a unique case study for agricultural change research due to the recency of its transition from small-scale, mixed farms to a globally connected, industrialized system. PEI was arguably the last agricultural province to engage in this transition, which mainly occurred through and after the 1968 Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) (Arsenault, 2016; MacDonald, 2000; MacFadyen, 2016). This provincial policy sought to increase production efficiency, decrease the farm labor force, and increase farmers’ per capita income, so it encouraged farm consolidation, specialization, and technification. Overall, the literature on agricultural industrialization takes a high-level approach, focusing on exogenous factors, such as the CDP, or on large-scale data, such as national censuses and provincial GIS surveys (MacDonald, 2000; Crabb 1985; MacEachern, 2003; MacLauchlan, 2014; Nyiraneza, et al., 2018). However, to gain a systemic understanding of this transition, it is necessary to integrate exogenous and household-level factors. Thus, this paper presents a PPGIS project, the “Back 50” Project, which prompts respondents to explore and compare three historical maps of PEI (1968, 2000, and 2015), and to reflect on the motivations for and effects of land-use changes (LUC) (GeoREACH, 2020, see Responses were analyzed using the Sustainable Livelihoods framework (Department of International Development, 2001). Preliminary results show that, across all respondents, respondents’ own goals and assets, not exogenous drivers, were the most important motivations for their LUC. Respondents tended to report on-farm agroecological effects more than off-farm ones, and intensification activities ranged widely in their ecological harm or benefit. The conclusion synthesizes the “Back 50” household-level results with the previous literature to build a more holistic narrative about this crucial agricultural transition.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 56. Expert and Local Knowledge in Land Use