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Historical Perspectives on Frontier Agriculture as an Adaptive Strategy Author(s): Maxine Margolis Source: American Ethnologist, Vol. 4, No.

1, Human Ecology (Feb., 1977), pp. 42-64 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/643522 . Accessed: 24/06/2013 11:13
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on frontieragriculture historicalperspectives as an adaptivestrategy1


MAXINE MARGOLIS-University of Florida

The love of the soil that one may see in China or France, the desire to honor it, to keep it in possession no matter how small the plot may be, is a thing born of familiarity and tradition, what we might call a part of the folk spirit in a long settled agricultural community. It is quite different from the restless response to the "invitation of the land" in a pioneer region. -Isaiah Bowman The Pioneer Fringe

introduction
In recent years, many seemingly inexplicable cultural practices have been rendered intelligible by ecological interpretations which have explored the adaptive advantages these traits confer on the populations which practice them. An ecological approach has proven useful not only in understanding the nature of economic and social activities, but also in demonstrating the adaptive aspects of religious beliefs and ceremonial behavior, domains often still categorized exclusively within the ideological realm (see, for example, Harris 1966; Rappaport 1968; and Moore 1969). Still, ecologically oriented anthropologists have tended to focus on economic behavior, the way "people make their living," since it is here that the link between a human population and its environment is most apparent. The subsistence activities of relatively small, homogeneous populations devoted to foraging, pastoralism, or horticulture have received the most attention within the economic sphere. Two factors may account for this preoccupation with "primitive" societies. First, they are the traditional subjects of anthropological inquiry. More importantly, however, the relative simplicity of their adaptations makes it far easier for the investigator to disentangle the complex environmental and cultural variables affecting them. Ecological studies of more complex societies, while they exist, are few in number (see, for example, Bennett 1969). For the same reasons, ecological anthropologists concerned with agriculture have dealt largely with populations practicing slash-and-burn techniques and again, with few exceptions (Boserup 1965; Geertz 1968; Hanks 1972), have not analyzed the cultural and environmental factors involved in more complex

This paper examines the ecological and economic factors which result in resource depletion on one type of agricultural frontier: those devoted to cash crops. It argues that the adaptive strategies of frontier cultivators are analogous to the "fugitive strategies" characteristic of some nonhuman species. These strategies account for the exploitative nature of frontier agriculture which leads to partial resource depletion or longterm ecological destruction.

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systems of cultivation, particularly those that are tied to world market demands. This paper will examine the economic and ecologic variables affecting one system of complex agriculture often associated with frontier zones: the cultivation of cash crops for which there is a high market value. It will be argued that a number of interrelated economic and environmental factors are associated with a particular variety of exploitation in which (1) the goal is quantitative not qualitative production, (2) the land is used extensively rather than intensively, and (3) the abundance of land, along with a scarcity of labor and capital, puts the burden of greater production on the soil. It will be further argued that frontier agriculturalists, living under the conditions described below, behave similarly because they individually adapt to the same set of ecological and economic constraints. It will be shown that it is the circumstances in which frontier cash crop cultivators find themselves which account for their reluctance to invest in expensive agricultural methods, including their failure to employ soil conservation measures. Not unexpectedly, the combined effect of these exploitative agricultural practices is far greater than the damage wrought by individual cultivators, and they lead to either partial resource depletion or long-term environmental degradation. Mentalistic explanations for the exploitative character of cultivation in frontier zones will be disputed. Opportunistic "get-rich-quick" attitudes held by frontier cultivators are sometimes cited as explanations for the destructive quality of agricultural regimes in frontier regions (see, for example, Bowman 1931; Allen 1959). According to this view, a footloose lifestyle, an absence of deep-rooted ties to the land, and a lack of concern for it, make frontier cultivators indifferent to the long-term consequences of their behavior. It follows, then, that these values are regarded as ultimately responsible for environmental degradation because they take precedence over considerations of resource conservation. An alternative explanation for this behavior, one which looks to the material conditions which affect many frontiers devoted to cash crop agriculture, will be utilized in this paper. It will be argued that the frontier cultivators' exploitative stance vis-a-vis natural resources can be best explained as an adaptive response to a particular set of economic and ecological conditions which often prevail in frontier regions. This approach is superior to one which cites "frontier values" as the prime movers for such behavior in that it does not merely describe these values, but explains their appearance within certain frontier contexts. In addition, if this analysis is correct, we can predict that a similar series of values will arise where certain preconditions are met. The variables affecting the nature of frontier agriculture will be separated into two sets (economic and ecological) for heuristic purposes only, realizing that they are interrelated and often interdependent. The economic factors include (1) the demand for a valuable cash crop, (2) the presence of free or inexpensive virgin frontier land, (3) unstable market conditions affecting the price received for the crop, (4) the accessibility of markets, and (5) the availability of credit. The ecological factors involved are (1) the effects on the quality of the soil of clearing virgin land for cultivation and (2) the influence of unstable and unpredictable natural conditions-that is, those related to weather and the presence of insect pests. The etic conditions outlined above produce adaptive strategies among frontier cultivators that are analogous to the "fugitive strategies" characteristic of certain nonhuman species.2 "Fugitive species" are able to survive by rapid and temporary occupations of new ecological niches as they first become available (MacArthur and Wilson 1967:82).3 It is suggested that a similar gambit is followed by frontier cultivators on land newly opened up for cash cropping. A word of extreme caution should be added here: in using this analogy between the strategies of nonhuman species and human

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populations it is with the full realization that the actual mechanisms of their respective adaptations are vastly different. Without belaboring this obvious point, in frontier environments cash crop cultivators, as individuals, draw upon a large repertoire of learned behaviors, many of which are used in adapting to changing circumstances. Moreover, their success in adapting to frontier conditions is a measure of their cultural, not, as in the case with fugitive species, of their biological success. In order to analyze the adaptations of frontier cash crop agriculturalists and the factors which produce them, their strategies in two world areas will be described in depth: the cotton frontier in the southern and southwestern United States and the coffee frontier in southern Brazil. In addition, the strategies of cash crop cultivators in other frontier regions will be briefly described.

consequences of frontier cash crop agriculture


Historians probably were the first to note the destructive effects of frontier agriculture on natural resources and to decry the social consequences of worn-out, abandoned lands. Many historical accounts of southern and westward expansion in the United States vividly portray the conquest of the wilderness by "farmers who made no compromise with nature ... which they came to subdue, not preserve" (Billington 1966:41). This "frontier spirit," in turn, led to "the ruthless exploitation of nature's resources" (Allen 1959:111). The literature on the settlement of the North American continent abounds with descriptions of prodigal cultivation techniques, the lack of conservation measures, and the deleterious consequences of these practices on the land. Some historians argue, in fact, that the pace of frontier expansion was accelerated in the American south and southeast by the rapidity with which tobacco and, later, cotton exhausted the soil (Allen 1959:34). One of the best-documented examples of the exploitative nature of cash crop cultivation on frontiers is the swift advance of cotton culture in the American South during the nineteenth century. Many contemporary observers lamented the cotton planters' and farmers' seeming indifference to the future of their lands; they decried the cultivators' overwhelming desire for quick profits which led to their constant search for fresher, more fertile soil in which to plant their crops. These commentators equally lambasted the conditions that this movement left in its wake: the abandoned farms and desolate towns, the decaying mansions, the lifeless gullied countryside covered with broom sedge and foxtail, and the social and political consequences of mass migration from exhausted lands that could support no one (Eaton 1949, 1961; Weaver 1945). There is little doubt that most methods of cotton cultivation in the south were destructive of the land. The slopes were plowed and planted with cotton year after year without using clover or peas to plow under and restore the soil's humus. Humus also was destroyed by the practice of clean planting in rows, which reduced the capacity of the soil to absorb moisture. Drainage channels became clogged so that heavy spring and summer rains ran down the slopes carrying off the topsoil with them'. Although sheet erosion was not evident at first, gullies began to appear and then deepen, eventually making cultivation impossible and the abandonment of the land unavoidable (Gates 1960:139). There were pleas for crop rotation and diversification, for using improved seed, for manuring depleted lands, for building drainage ditches, and for deep plowing (Weaver 1945:88). A few of these were heeded, but most fell on deaf ears. Many cultivators readily adopted better cotton seed which increased production, and the plow was used

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more widely for cotton than for staple crops. But, as for soil conservation and crop diversification, little or nothing was done. The same exploitative practices first used in the Piedmont region were carried to Alabama and Mississippi and points west; planters and farmers alike tilled the soil without apparent concern for its future. A similar tale can be told for the advance of coffee cultivation in southern Brazil. In less than one hundred and fifty years, coffee spread from the hilly flanks around the city of Rio de Janeiro to the Paraiba Valley, onward to Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo and, most recently, to Parana, finally crossing the international boundary into Paraguay. Here again, critics of the advance abound; while historians have described the rapid westward march of the crop, agronomists have criticized the degradation of natural resources it left in its wake. "Improvidence" was said to have "rode along with the coffee frontier" (Little 1960:260); an "exploitative psychology" was held responsible for the move to fertile frontier lands once the old lands were depleted (Moore 1962:465), and a spirit of "routinism" (rotina) was blamed for the planters' failure to adopt modern agricultural methods (Stein 1957:48). Again, there is a great deal of evidence that the techniques used in cultivation led to the rapid deterioration of the soil. In the Paraiba Valley, coffee was planted in vertical rows up and down the slopes, and hard tropical rains washed away the soil, leaving the trees' roots exposed to the elements (Stein 1957:34). There were few attempts to conserve the soil's initial fertility; "rational" agricultural methods-mechanization, seed and seedling selection, fertilizer, reforestation, and erosion control-were utilized infrequently, and then, in most cases, as stopgap measures only after yields had begun to decline. The aftermath of falling coffee production and depleted soils in Brazil was not unlike its counterpart in the southern United States. In some areas, the abandoned coffee lands were so devastated that it is unlikely that they can be restored for crop production. The destruction of humus was on a massive scale: "In most regions, a mere one tenth now remains of the amount of humus present when coffee cultivation was started.... Centuries of forest growth would be required to restore an adequate humus layer" (Borgstrom 1967:329-330). In many regions, cattle ranching replaced coffee cultivation; large-scale unemployment resulted, followed by partial depopulation (Margolis 1973:218-219). Cattle graze on pasturage that is deficient both in quality and quantity and must be ever on their guard to avoid injuring themselves in the gullies and ravines which are barely concealed by the sparse vegetation (Borgstrom 1967:330). Today, in many former "coffee counties," abandoned schools and houses, unused drying terraces, and vast expanses of pasture punctuated by lifeless coffee trees bear mute witness to the injurious results of cash crop frontier agriculture.

the destructive cycle: economic considerations


In order to account for the rather striking parallels in the course of cash crop cultivation in frontier regions, we now turn to the economic and ecological contexts with which this type of cultivation is most often associated. The sine qua non of the exploitative agricultural regimes described above is a combination of free or inexpensive virgin frontier land and a high market demand for a cash crop. For a variety of reasons which cannot be dealt with here, subsistence farming does not seem to produce the same opportunistic patterns.4 Typically, once a demand is established for a cash crop, there is a rapid, large-scale migration to frontier areas more or less suited to its cultivation. The land is possessed

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either through squatting or through payment of a nominal price. Forestsare quickly cut down, the land is cleared for planting, rudimentary shelters are constructed, and seemingly overnighta vast wildernesshas given way to cultivatedfields dotted with signs of humanhabitation. The prices received for the cash crop are relatively high, certainly higher than for alternative crops, so that the cultivators'goal is to produce as much as possible on the land available to them. For this reason, the production of subsistence crops may be insufficient to meet the needs of the local population, since, with a relatively sparse population, labor is too valuable to "waste" on growingsuch mundanestaples as rice, corn, or beans. Harvestsare very large at first, as they can be on newly cultivated soils; and profits, at least initially, are high. This phase often is markedby an aura of general prosperity with a "boom town" atmosphere. Comparatively lavish consumption is common; food and clothing are imported; and, in the contemporary era, there are purchasesof radios,sewing machines,and even cars and jeeps. During their early settlement, the cotton and coffee zones of the United States and Brazilconformed closely to the scenariooutlined above. In the former, the passageof the HarrisonFrontier Land Act of 1800, setting the minimumprice of governmentland at $2.00 an acre and allowing payments in four annual installments, encouraged the expansion of cotton in the Gulf states (Eaton 1961:31). Rich alluviallands in the lower Mississippiregion sold for $2-4 an acre (Cohn 1956:105). Between 1830 and 1840, the tide of humanity coming from the older cotton states to the Gulf states in searchof fresh frontier land swelled the populations of Alabamaand Mississippiby 76 percentand 154 percent, respectively (Eaton 1961:44). Withinthirty years, the greatforests had vanished and had been replaced by cultivated fields, plantations,and roads.The rude log cabin of the first years gave way to the southern"mansionhouse," with its sweepingverandaand imposingcolumns. Both harvestsand profits were initially large,despite fluctuations in the price received for cotton. For example, in Louisianafollowing the War of 1812, the combination of high prices and high yields on newly cleared land enabled plantersto earn $500 to $600 annually per worker by cultivatingcotton (Gray1933:899). Planterssowed most of their holdings in cotton, forcing themselvesto buy staples in the market, and in 1825, when there was a sudden upsurge in the price of cotton, corn actually was plowed under to riverboat tradethrivedduring make way for the more valuablecash crop. The Mississippi of the to this period, carryingall mannerof goods planters the region;these were truly a book written during the era was called as in Alabama and "Flush Times Mississippi," in Eaton 1961:35). (cited follows The story of the settlement of Brazil'snewest coffee frontier, northernParana, a very similarpattern.Withina periodof forty-fiveyears (1920-1965), population density in the coffee-producingregionsof the state increasedfrom just undernine to slightly over seventy-five people per square mile, and a fourfold population increase in ten years occurred in some parts of the zone (Nicholls 1969:40, 48). Between 1940 and 1950 frontierfrom alone, it is estimated that some two million people migratedto the Parana in Brazil areas older of the 1965:82). (Courtenay many agricultural The dense semi-tropicalforests rapidlygave way to row upon row of coffee trees, as with people with fairly meager resourcesflocked to the region hoping to strike-it-rich "green gold," as coffee was called. Land was cheap and could be purchased in installmentsat low interest rates,5 so that many settlers were able to afford at least small frontier plots. Those with fewer resources came to the region in hopes of being contracted as formadoresde cafe, that is, cultivatorswho cleared the land, planted and

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cared for the coffee trees for up to six years in return for the rights to the first and second harvests(Margolis1973:35). Still others were attractedto northernParanaby the relativelyhigh wagesthey could earn as laborersin the coffee harvest. The coffee boom in northern Paranareacheda peak during the decade of the 1950s, when the newly planted coffee trees beganproducingtheir first harvestsand pricessoared to a high of $15 per bag of unprocessedcoffee (Margolis1972:10). These were the days of "milk and honey" for much of the local population; stores were well stocked with luxury goods, the towns bustled with activity, and shiny new Volkswagenstraveledthe recently built dirt roadsthat crisscrossedthe countryside. Booms of this sort in frontier regions generallydo not last. After a few years, yields begin to decline. The exact number of years dependsupon the initialfertility of the soil, the demands which particular crops make on it, and other factors. During the early years of cultivation, which were markedby bountiful harvestsand good profits, little or no attention was paid to maintainingthe soil's originalfertility. Laborwas too scarceand costly to carry out conservationmeasures.By the time that crop yields have decreased due to soil depletion, the price received for the crop may be lower as the result of measures,therefore,are overproduction,and profits are down considerably.Conservation not economically feasible even if planters want to undertake them. A central considerationhere, however,is that cultivatorsare highly reluctantto invest largesums of money in efforts to improve their partiallydepleted holdingswhen cheap fertile frontier land is still available. The reserve of seemingly inexhaustible virgin land makes the landowners' unwillingness to spend their resources on "rational" agriculturalmethods for considerablyless they can purchasefrontier plots which are virtually understandable; guaranteedto producehigh yields for at least a few years. These events occurred in both frontier zones under consideration. In the southern United States during the nineteenth century, there was almost a constant south and westwardmovement of farmersand plantersfrom the older cotton-producingregionsto the virginfrontier lands being opened up for cultivation. But why this migration?In the early cotton-producingareas of Virginiaand North Carolina,productionfell drastically; the combined crop from the two states was 104,000 bales in 1828-1829, but fourteen years later it had fallen to 22,500 bales (Gray1933:889). Soil depletion, early frosts and lower cotton prices were all held responsible for this precipitous decline (Phillips 1929:99-100). But still there was no call for soil conservation.Thomas Jefferson held that fertilizers were not needed in Virginia "because we can buy an acre of new land cheaperthan we can manurean old one" (quoted in Cohn 1956:49). Manycultivatorsfrom the older cotton regions rushed to Alabamaand Mississippiin hopes of recapturingthe profits that can be made when a valuablecash crop is grown in virgin soil. But here, too, the story was repeated.There was a relativelyshort-livedperiod of high yields and generalprosperity, but by 1840, in one typical Alabamacounty, the averageyield of cotton seed had decreasedfrom 1,000 to 500 pounds (Davis1939:170). practiceswhich might By this time, however, it was not feasible to establish agricultural have replenishedthe soil: "generallyspeaking,soil conservationwas a luxury far beyond the planters'means"(Davis1939:173). The peak of the coffee boom in the ParaibaValley of Rio de Janeirowas the decade 1850-1860, but production fell sharply thereafter;where 1,000 coffee trees had yielded up to 4,500 kilos of coffee, thirty years later they produced only 750 kilos (Stein 1957:219). In the 1890s, many planters from the Valley sold their depleted holdings6 and migrated to the coffee frontier in Sao Paulo state. Their desire to move there is perfectly understandablein light of the fact that the newly cultivated lands on the Sao

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Paulo frontier produced yields four to five times greaterthan those of the sappedsoils of the ParalbaValley (Gifun 1972:8). Whileconservationtechniques certainlywere known to and discussedby the plantersof the Valley, it is importantto note that the purchaseof frontier land was more reliable and less costly than investmentsin soil conservationand restoration. Another very importanteconomic variableaffecting the natureof frontieragriculture is the price receivedfor the crop, since it, in conjunction with the size of yields, in part determines the cultivators' profit level. One problem common to frontier cash crop agriculturalistsis that they are buffeted by forces of the world market over which they have no control. The prices paid for commodities on the world marketrise and fall, and, as we shall see, the behaviorof frontiercultivatorsis greatly influencedby the conditions of uncertaintycreated by this situation. The prices received by North Americanplantersfor their cotton crop is a good case in point, since they were determined by the international, largely British, commodity market (Allen 1959:40). Between 1801 and 1807, the price per pound of cotton fell from forty-four to twenty cents due to overproduction,a resultof the rapidrushto plant that crop spurredby its initial high return.Cotton pricescontinued their decline through 1814, but by 1815 the markethad recovered,and cotton broughtthirty cents per pound. Overproductionled to periodic declines in price-in 1820, 1825, and 1837-1845-greatly affecting the cultivator'slevel of return(Phillips1929:99-100). Similarly, the career of coffee in Brazilhas been markedby greatfluctuations in price. At the onset of the Great Depression,for example, pricesplummetedfrom 22.5 cents to eight cents per pound within two years (Little 1960:159). Prices remained so low plantersdid not have sufficient money throughout the decade of the 1930s that Brazilian to carry out basic pruningtasks on their coffee trees (Little 1960:184). FollowingWorld War II, prices rose sharply, eventually peaking at eighty-eightcents per pound in 1953 (Schurz 1961:254). The mid-1950s were banner years in terms of the planters'actual returns on their crop; during this period, they received an averageof $15 per bag of unprocessed coffee.7 In the 1960s, world prices for coffee dropped again, and planters were now requiredto sell through the BrazilianCoffee Institute (Instituto Brasileirode Cafe), a federal agency. By 1967, planterswere being paid an averageof only $5.00 per 1973:47). bag of unprocessedcoffee (Margolis The price received for cash crops also plays a major role in the decision to move to frontier lands. The North American historian, Ray Billington, has shown a direct correlation between land sales in the south and west and commodity prices in England and Europe. For example, between 1815-1820, when prices for cotton were high, there was a rapid southwestwardexpansion of the crop, but in 1820 the price fell, and so did the demand for southern land (Billington 1966:29).8 Likewise, in Brazilthe westward movement of coffee was slowed considerablyduring the depressionof the 1930s, but it picked up enormous momentum following WorldWarii, when coffee prices once again soared (Margolis 1973:22). Two types of behavior which are potentially destructive of natural resources are stimulated during periods of high prices. When prices are high, the primarygoal of frontier cash crop cultivatorsis to produce more; to take their profits through quantity rather than quality; and to increase yields, not through more intensive methods of cultivation, which would requiregreatercapital inputs, but throughexpansioninto even newer frontier zones where land is both fertile and cheap. In Phillips' words, "when cotton was high they [planters] felt the tug of richer profits to be gained from fresher lands"(1929:99).

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It is an irony of frontier cash crop agriculturethat when capital is availablefor the maintenanceof soil quality; that is, duringperiods of high prices, little attention is paid to it since yields are abundant owing to the initial fertility of newly cultivated lands. However, by the time that soil fertility has declined, prices are often lower due to overproduction,and little capital is availableto invest in soil conservation.The result is that capital is usually not used intensively on frontiers devoted to cash crop cultivation. Another side effect of high prices has been noted by the agriculturaleconomist, cultivation expands "into areas which, under more conservativeprice Ciriacy-Wantrup: would not be suited climatically or geographically. Such speculative expectations, has expansion frequently led to soil depletion" (1963:120). This occurredduringtimes of in high prices both the United States and Brazil. In the former, cotton was planted in hilly, topographicallyunsuited areas of the Piedmont, as well as in the sandy loams of west and central Florida (Phillips 1929:273). In the latter, coffee spread into areas of suited to poor sandy soil, once all availableterraroxa-a deep red porous soil particularly coffee planting-was under cultivation. In Paranastate, coffee was planted in regions subject to periodicfrosts with frequently disastrousconsequences.9 During periods of low prices, there is sometimes a tendency among cultivators to maintainproduction or even increaseit throughgreater labor inputs. This is particularly the case among low income, self-employedfarmers;unable to afford hiredhands,family labor may be increased during times of low prices. Such conditions also prevent the purchase of fertilizer, and the intensified use of the soil leads to further depletion. "A vicious cycle-low prices, low income, and soil depletion-is created" (Ciriacy-Wantrup 1963:208). The effects of these events on resource depletion are magnified if, duringperiods of high prices, cultivation has expanded into regions which are topographically or climatically unsuited to the particularcash crop in question. As noted above, it is during times of low prices that there is a slowing of the movementinto newerfrontierzones. It will not be halted completely, however, if the cash crop, despite its relatively low price, still affordsgreaterreturnsthan alternativecrops.' 0 Even greater contributors to resource depletion in frontier zones than speculative expansion of cash crops during times of high prices are conditions of uncertainty in market price. There is a greater reluctance on the part of cultivators to invest in conservationtechniquesduring periods of price fluctuation. "Evenexpendituresof costs sunk for shorter periods-e.g., fertilizer-will be reduced if there is an increase in uncertainty" (Ciriacy-Wantrup 1963:118-119). Thus, economic instabilitywhich leads to price fluctuations has a major influence on conservation decisions. This tendency probably is enhanced in frontier situations characterizedby cheap abundant land. Since uncertainty in market price markedthe careersof cotton in the United States and coffee in Brazil, it is understandable that their cultivatorswere unwillingto invest heavily in soil to not mention the more expensiveand slow processof land restoration. conservation, The accessibility of marketsis another majorvariableaffecting the nature of frontier agriculture. Clearly,frontier cultivatorsmust have readyaccess to marketswhere they can sell their crops. In fact, the location of frontier land in relation to roads, railroads,and economies" as distinct ports is an importantdeterminantof its value in "export-propelled from subsistenceeconomies (Katzman1975:269). The importance of the initial presence of market access should not be overstated, however, because, even if transportationfacilities are poor or entirely lackingat first, the demand for a valuable cash crop, along with the availabilityof good land on which to grow it, usually stimulates the construction of marketing facilities necessary for the

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staple's commercialization. This certainly was true in the two frontier areas under discussion. Within ten years of the appearanceof short staple cotton as a commercial crop, steamboats were plying the MississippiRiver bringingcotton to the two principal southern ports of New Orleans and Mobile for shipment via New York to British factories. Although the major period of railroad building in the South did not get underway until the decade of the 1850s, the railroadswere primarilydesigned to carry staples-particularly cotton-to the seaports of the region (Eaton 1961:199, 207, 210). Only one area of the Cotton Kingdomwas adverselyaffected by inadequatetransportation facilities; the Georgia-SouthCarolinaPiedmont was cut off from the coast by pine barrensand lacked navigablerivers,but its inferiorsoil probablywas more responsiblefor cotton's early demise in the area than was its geographical situation (Abernethy 1922:99). In the early period of coffee cultivation in Brazil, before the construction of the railroad,the crop was transportedby mule pack to the port of Rio de Janeiro (Stein 1957:81). This costly and hazardous form of transport was replaced by the Pedro Valley in the early 1860s. Coffee plantersin Segundo railroad,which reachedthe Para(ba were very nearlycoterminous Sao Paulo state had no such marketingproblems;railroads with the coffee frontier:
The railroadterminusfor threeor four yearsat a time would be an importanturbancenteror a Whena populationfartherin the interiorhad enough boca de sertdo (mouth of the backlands). followed (Little 1960:21). trafficto meritservice,the railroad freightand passenger

Similarly, in northern Paranathe railroadsextended to the edge of frontier settlement, and today, in addition to the railroads,well-maintained paved highways permit the easy of and Santos to the 1973:19-21). Paranaqua ports (Margolis transportof the crop The final economic factor to be considered here which affects the nature of frontier agricultureis the availabilityof credit. A characteristicof many frontier zones is their "indebtedness"(Allen 1959:40). Farmersand plantersalike often lack sufficient capital to "set up shop." The expenses of the early years of frontier settlement are particularly heavy; living quarters must be built, tools purchased,land cleared and paid for, to say nothing of the money required to meet the cultivators' and their families' subsistence needs until the first crop has been harvested.' In short, frontierfarmingis not possible with little or no capital, Frederick Jackson Turner (1920) notwithstanding. Most cultivators,even relativelywealthy ones, need some source of credit. Credit is usually not difficult to come by in a frontierzone devoted to the cultivation of a valuable cash crop. When prices for the commodity are high and yields are large, creditors presumablyhave confidence in the cultivators'ability to repay their loans-at least for a while. Not unexpectedly, then, credit was abundantlyavailableat most times on the two frontiersin question. The availability of credit is not only necessaryfor the establishmentof commercial agriculture in frontier regions, but it also affects the frontier cultivator's behavior in regard to soil conservation. In the long run, therefore, it may have an influence on resourceusage and depletion.12 If loans are needed to meet initial expenses of all types, they also will be requiredfor the purchaseof fertilizer,insecticide,select seeds, and labor to carryout erosion control measures. There are two links between the use of credit and conservationdecisions:uncertainty in the price received for the crop and uncertainty in natural conditions. Frontier cultivators are reluctant to invest in conservation measuresand to borrow money for them at what often are high interest rates, if there is doubt as to the price they will receive for the crop. If the principaland interest of their "conservationloans" must be

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paid off during, a period of sharply declining prices, their profits may be cut severely or wiped out completely. For similar reasons, frontier cash crop cultivators are loath to purchase fertilizer or to invest in erosion control, if there is the likelihood of a frost or drought which would drastically cut the size of the anticipated harvest, if not entirely eliminate it. And here again the spectre of unsettled virgin frontier land looms large: Why go into debt to finance conservation measures on one's own partially depleted holding, when inexpensive frontier land-which virtually is guaranteed to produce for at least a few years-is readily available? In cases of sudden price plunges or the immediate threat of natural disasters, conservation decisions may be affected by the cultivators' fear of losing their land:
Farmers... who own their own land, but who are obligated to pay high interest and amortization charges may fear they will be dispossessed by their creditors in times of drought or economic depression; they have no more interest in soil conservation than a tenant with a short lease (Ciriacy-Wantrup1963:145).

Credit was the life line of cotton culture in the southern United States, with the cotton factor playing the central role in its distribution. Cotton factors usually lived in port cities and acted as the planters' agents, selling their crops, providing them with credit to buy land, slaves, and staples, and sending supplies to their plantations. The small country general store served a similar function for farmers with small holdings. These stores operated almost entirely on credit. Thus, cultivators on a large scale or small were heavily dependent on loans to meet their expenses, since they usually lacked cash until their crops were sold. For their services, the creditors naturally demanded a price. Cotton factors generally charged interest rates of only 8 percent, but they frequently required indebted planters to sell their crops exclusively to them. Small shopkeepers, too, were compensated for their loans; they marked up goods as much as 100 percent, at least partially because of the exigencies of agriculture on which the repayment of their loans depended (Eaton 1961:200-206). It appears that cotton planters did not borrow money for conservation purposes, but only negative evidence attests to this. In a detailed study of the factorage system in the southern cotton region, there is no mention of loans to buy fertilizer or to finance other conservation measures (Woodman 1968). While cultivators went heavily into debt to purchase more land and more slaves, particularly during periods of high prices, they did not borrow money to improve or conserve land already under cultivation. Nor was cash on hand used for this purpose: "surplus cash not needed for the payment of debts was invested in new land instead of being used for the improvement of the old" (Davis 1939:177). Credit also played a vital role in the advance of the coffee frontier in Brazil. From the first establishment of coffee plantations in the Parafba Valley, planters borrowed money to buy land, slaves, and the few necessities of life, such as salt, not available locally (Stein 1957:17). But, once again, despite sharply declining yields in later years due to soil exhaustion and the increasing threat to the coffee trees from soil erosion, money was not borrowed to finance conservation schemes. This has changed, however, but only very recently, on Brazil's newest coffee frontier. In northern Parana, just as in other cash crop frontier zones, cultivators borrowed heavily for everything from the purchase of food and household goods to the hiring of extra hands for the harvest. It is only within the last five years, however, that they have taken out loans to buy fertilizer and insecticide and to finance contour planting for erosion control (Margolis 1973:245). Like their counterparts elsewhere, coffee cultivators in northern Parana have been reluctant to go into debt to make "conservation loans," since

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their repayment will greatly cut profits in the event of lower prices or a frost. However, other-largely new-factors now influence their decision to make the investment despite the risks involved. Of major importance is the fact that coffee trees that have been producing for fifteen or twenty years on sandy soil, like most of those in Parana, give extremely small harvests if fertilizer is not applied. Secondly, since coffee is a price-supported crop, its cultivators are assured that the bottom will not completely fall out of the market and that they will receive at least some return on their investment. In addition, loans for fertilizer and other conservation techniques now are readily available from the Bank of Brazil at very low interest rates. Finally, the present supply of virgin frontier land in Brazil suitable for coffee cultivation is extremely limited,13 thus closing the traditional "escape hatch" for planters with exhausted soils. These recent circumstances, then, have tempered frontier cultivators' usual unwillingness to become indebted in order to conserve their land. If this peculiar set of factors which influence the coffee planters of Parana is taken into account, however, then their behavior may be the exception which helps to prove the rule. In order to complete the discussion of economic factors which affect the nature of frontier agriculture, the following questions should be raised: Why did cotton and coffee planters in the United States and Brazil show such blind devotion to their respective crops? Why, for example, did they refuse to plant alternative cash crops with more stable price structures or cultivate subsistence crops on a larger scale? The answer, in part, is that in the regions in which they were grown, cotton and coffee were the most profitable crops. Several factors stimulated the monocrop economy in the southern United States. For one, cotton could be grown over a wider region than any other cash crop. "Rice, sugar cane, and tobacco demanded soil and climatic conditions that prevented their extension over all the available territory" (Cohn 1956:45). Then too, cotton, which has a long growing season and periodically requires intensive hand labor, limited crop diversification; cotton left no surplus labor for tending other crops. Subsistence crops were not widely grown in the southern cotton region because, as we have seen, both land and labor were considered too valuable to expend on them, particularly when cotton prices were high. Moreover, foodstuffs could be easily imported from the border states and other noncotton producing regions. In addition, cotton was always marketable, while at times there were no mechanisms for marketing alternative cash crops (Cohn 1956:51). Finally, cotton meant credit to buy supplies and slaves and to acquire more land-credit which was never available on the same scale for other cash crops. Somewhat similar factors encouraged monocrop cultivation in Brazil. Since coffee is a perennial, it is incompatible with crop rotation-one means of crop diversification. Coffee is also a labor-intensive crop, and its annual cycle conflicts with another potential that their harvests fall at the same time of year (James money-maker-cotton-in 1959:493). Subsistence crops were not grown on a large scale in Brazil's coffee region because land was too valuable to devote to them alone, and intertilling food crops with coffee tends to rob the latter of soil nutrients and reduce the trees' yields. Nevertheless, intertilling was practiced by the owners of small holdings to help meet their subsistence needs. Also, coffee had government price supports which insured that its price would not fall precipitously, while the returns on alternative unsupported crops fluctuated wildly according to the laws of supply and demand. Cultivating productive coffee trees also guaranteed easy access to credit, an advantage not afforded by any other cash crop. The final factor wedding planters to coffee is probably the most important one: coffee

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produced the highest returns on investment. Even during periods of relatively low prices, 4 there was no other crop which could compete with coffee in terms of profitability.1 At this point, a word on the various labor systems employed on the two frontiers is in order. Even though a variety of labor arrangements existed on the cotton frontier in the United States and the coffee frontier in Brazil, similar adaptations to frontier conditions arose in both cases. During various periods these frontier lands were cultivated by slaves, sharecroppers, day laborers, co/onos,15 tenant farmers, and small holders. What is striking, however, is that despite the great differences in the actual operation of these diverse labor systems and the class relations to which they gave rise,16 the economic and ecological factors present on these frontiers appear to have overridden the differences in labor arrangements and to have produced remarkably similar behavioral gambits on the part of large holders and small. Before turning to the ecological factors which affect frontier cash crop regimes, it is very important to emphasize that a number of the economic factors which influence frontier agriculture are not controlled locally: they stem from the frontiers' dependent relationship with other world areas. World market price and the availability of creditl 7 and marketing facilities are determined by forces largely or totally outside of the frontier regions in which the cash crops are actually grown. This was the case in both the southern United States and southern Brazil. Their cotton and coffee frontiers were "satellites" of "metropoles" (Frank 1969). In the early years of cotton cultivation, the American south was an "international satellite" of England, because, in part, the British market for textiles was largely responsible for making cotton the boom crop that it was, and British capital played a major role in the development of the cotton frontier (Allen 1959:40). Later, however, the south's dependency on the British market was replaced by an equally strong dependency on northern business: "The most striking characteristic of Southern economy was that, although the colonial connection with England had been broken, a new colonialism arose with respect to Northern business" (Eaton 1961:196). Initially, investments in Brazil's coffee industry were made largely by Brazilian capital, but soon British capital entered the scene "after Brazilian capital had paved the way and shown the profit" (Frank 1969:168). The coffee frontier's satellite status crystallized with heavy British investment in railroad construction in Sao Paulo and Parana and British-financed improvement of the port facilities in Santos. Foreign interests in Britain, France, and the United States took over most of the coffee export trade and, later, some of its domestic financing and production. Today, seven of the ten largest coffee-exporting firms in Brazil are in North American hands (Frank 1969:253). The coffee frontier's dependence upon the metropole(s) perhaps is best illustrated by the disastrous plunge in coffee prices during the world economic crisis of 1929. The details of the relationship between the metropoles and their frontier satellites deserve a separate volume and clearly are beyond the scope of this paper. In addition, the question of possible similarities and differences in the influence of these factors in noncapitalist political economies can not be dealt with here. Whether or not frontier cash crop agriculturalists would exhibit similar behavioral gambits within the context of strongly centralized political systems with tightly controlled colonization programs is a separate, although related, topic. Whatever the case in socialist political economies, there is no doubt that the dependent status of frontier areas within capitalist systems greatly influences the behavior of resident cultivators and, therefore, indirectly contributes to the destructive nature of frontier cash crop agriculture.

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the destructive cycle: ecological considerations There are important ecological considerationswhich influence the course of frontier cash crop agriculture.Perhapsforemost among them is the effect of simply clearingthe land of its forest overgrowth for cultivation. Virgin soil protected by its natural vegetation changes very slowly in composition. When cultivation gets under way, however, when the soil covering is broken and crops are taken out, change occurs far more rapidly.A numberof processesare involvedin soil modificationand depletion. First of crops.The removalof organic is the loss of materialsdue to the growth and harvesting matter results in at least temporary impoverishmentof the soil, which diminishes the availability of important nutrients to subsequent crops, unless, of course, they are restored by artificialmeans-e.g., fertilizers. Also, with the removalof the forest canopy, the soil, for the first time, is directly exposed to the elements, most notably rainfall.The damagedone by rainfall"comes not only from the actual carryingaway of soil particles in suspension (erosion), but also by the removal of materials in solution (leaching)" (Craven1925:16). The materialcarriedaway by the watersalso lessen the soil's fertility, since potassium, phosphorous, calcium, nitrogen, etc., are carriedoff and no longer are available as plant food. Although hilly areas are most endangeredby the hazardsof rainfall,all landsundercultivationare subject to at least some depletion from this source. The final factor contributing to the diminished fertility of cultivated soils is the development of harmfultoxins, fungi, and diseasesin them. Although their effects on soil fertility are variableand in part depend on the soil's originalcomposition and in part on the cultivation techniques employed, they often play a role in soil depletion (Craven 1925:15-19). The point of these ecological considerations is that cultivation on virgin land-cultivation of whateversort-opens the path to deterioration. Since unstable and unpredictablenaturalconditions, particularlyweatherconditions and the appearanceof insect pests, encourageexploitative cultivation practices,they are another set of ecological factors which lead indirectly to soil depletion in frontier areas devoted to cash crops (Ciriacy-Wantrup 1963:201). Althoughfrosts, droughts,and insect pests are hardly unique to frontier zones, they often constitute serious threats to cultivation in them and amplify the uncertaintycaused by pricefluctuations (see p. 49). Instability in naturalconditions affects the cultivators'behaviorin regardto conservation decisions, because the fear of a severe frost or droughtmakesthem reluctantto invest in fertilizers and other conservation measures;should such a natural disaster occur, their investmentwould be lost and they might even find themselvesin debt. frontiers Uncertainconditions of this type played major roles on the two agricultural under discussion.The primarynaturalscourgesof cotton culture in the southern United States were excessive rainfall, droughts, and the infamous boll weevil. Too much rain sometimes delayed harvestingand damagedthe cotton crop; it also enhancedthe growth of noxious plant life as well as insect pests. Droughtsoccurringduringcritical phasesof the growingcycle adverselyaffected the quality and quantity of the yields. Finally, the boll weevil, which multipliedin huge numbersin the cool, rainyclimate of the South, had to be controlled, or it too could devastatethe cotton crop (Cohn 1956:175). In most areas of Brazil in which coffee was grown, frosts were the major natural phenomenon endangeringthe trees' yields. Frosts have periodicallyeliminatedharvestsin Sao Paulo and Parana, and, on occasion, severeones have killed the coffee trees. As noted of high prices, the threat of frost damage was aggravatedby the above, during times into frost-proneregions.The link between frost riskand cultivation of coffee expansion conservation decisions is illustrated by the behavior of cultivators in Ouro Verde, a

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"coffee county" in northern Parana. There, many farmers are afraid of applying chemical fertilizer; in the event of a frost or a drought that destroys the berries, their whole investment is lost, because fertilizer already applied will not benefit subsequent harvests (Margolis 1973:171). Once again, the dependence of frontier zones on their metropoles contributes to the exploitative nature of frontier agriculture-in this case, to ecological degradation. Metropolitan interests demand that their satellites grow that which is marketable (not necessarily that which is most needed to meet the nutritional requirements of the frontier population). Furthermore, since the cash crops are sold in distant markets, the metropole receives no feedback concerning critical ecological factors affecting the frontier. But even if metropolitan interests were aware of the ecological damage wrought by the cultivation of the desired cash crop, they probably would not take heed of the problem, because they would have nothing to gain-or, rather, little to lose-from the environmental degradation of a distant satellite zone. For the metropole, "it is more efficient to utilize a system at full rate until it is exhausted of the desired resource, and then to seek another population to appropriate" (Weiss 1975:22).

tobacco, anchovies, oranges


In an attempt to demonstrate that the cotton cultivators of the southern United States and their counterparts in southern Brazil are by no means unique in the opportunistic character of their behavior toward natural resources, the strategies of cash crop cultivators in colonial Virginia and Maryland will be examined briefly.18 The earliest frontier "boom crop" in what was to become the United States was tobacco grown in the colonies of Virginia and Maryland. Tobacco was first cultivated in Virginia in 1616, and with the increasing demand for the crop in England along with the colony's near monopoly of it, by 1617 tobacco was being grown in the streets and market square of Jamestown. Production skyrocketed, and, in 1620, 40,000 tons were exported to England (Courtenay 1965:12). The population of Virginia swelled fairly rapidly, spurred on by the policy that individuals who emigrated to the colony at their own expense could claim fifty acres of land, provided that they cleared it and at least nominally occupied it (Courtenay 1965: 13). The expansion of tobacco cultivation continued apace; by 1630 clearings were being made on the York River and somewhat later along the Rappahannock and Potomac. The march of tobacco continued unabated until the "hard times" during the last quarter of the seventeenth century (Craven 1926:63). At first, tobacco brought a high price-five shillings per pound-but as early as 1630, the price fell to two pence per pound as a result of overproduction. Throughout the colonial period the price of tobacco fluctuated wildly, but despite some lean years, profits from growing the crop were generally high during the first five or six decades of the era, as the rather luxurious life style that arose in the tobacco region attested. Even after the boom days had passed, one contemporary observer estimated that a planter's initial investment of fifty pounds sterling had grown to 600 pounds sterling within two years (Craven 1926:39). The prices received for tobacco in the early days were so high that "a man's labor in tobacco production yielded him six times as large a return as might be secured from any other crop" (Craven 1926:30). It is not surprising, then, that tobacco was planted on almost all available land and that many planters were forced to purchase at least part of their food crops. Tobacco also encouraged monocrop production in that its periods of

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soil preparation,planting, and harvestingcoincided with those of corn and wheat. Labor was simply too expensive to expend on these staples, given the profits that could be obtained from growingtobacco on newly clearedland. In addition, towardthe end of the colonial period monocrop production was spurred by the authorities because of the revenue taxes on tobacco added to the Royal Treasury. Any attempts by planters to cultivate alternative crops were met with official discouragement(Craven 1926:31, 40-41). Tobacco also enjoyed decided advantagesover other crops in terms of transport.It kept well, and its weight when readyfor shipmentwas fairly low, both importantfactors because its major market lay thousandsof miles acrossthe open sea. Only tobacco could pay the high costs of transportationand still return a profit to its planters (Craven 1926:30-31). There is no doubt that the cultivation techniquesemployed by the colonial tobacco planterswere wasteful of the land. No effort was made to preservethe soil'sfertility; since tobacco used the entire labor force as well as the best lands, the supply of animalsto produce manure for fertilizer was severely limited. However, as long as an abundant supply of virgin land was available to which planters could move once their current holdings were depleted, the problem was not a serious one. The scarcity of capital also played a role in soil depletion. From the earliest period tobacco was based on hoe cultivation. 9 The surface soils were loosened by a continual but shallow stirringof the plants' roots. The deeper soils were "not touched and turned up to the surface to give new supplies of food materialsnor the depth given to the surfacesoils that would enable them to absorb rainfalland prevent washing"(Craven1926:35). Such techniquesclearly invitederosion. Another contributor to soil depletion was the high cost of labor,a resultof its relative scarcity on the colonial frontier. According to Craven,a laborercost four times as much as the land which he could tend (1926:36), and becauseof its high cost, planterswere forced to make the most of their workers regardlessof the ill effects on the soil. An of the land. inexpensivelaborsupply was one of the planters'goals, not preservation Since high quality tobacco could be produced only on the freshest soil, after the second crop was harvested the land usually was abandoned. Plantersrarely took more than four or five crops out of a given field because subsequentharvestsdeclined in both quality and quantity. This wasteful frontier method of agriculturewas largelyfollowed because of "the high cost of laborand the illimitablereservesof land, ratherthan because of ignoranceor carelessness"(Eaton 1949:27). In fact, the movementto virginland was so rapid that the terms "tobacco lands" and "new lands" became synonymous (Craven 1926:32). The result of these practices was soil depletion and erosion on a massivescale. As the tobacco frontier moved into ever newer lands, it left behind gullied fields which were sometimes briefly given over to corn cultivation before turning to secondary forest countryside, covered with yellow sedge and old field growth. The Virginiaand Maryland out worn and an "had aspect" (Eaton 1961:4). The dilapidatedmansions unkempt pines, of the heyday of tobacco culture, as and deserted log cabinsof the regionwere reminders well as symbols of the desolate aftermath of cash crop agricultureon the colonial frontier. Another striking example of gross exploitation of a natural resource involving behavioral components similar to those displayed by frontier cultivators is instructive since it is not found within the context of a frontier agriculturalregime. This is the anchoveta ('anchovy') industry in Peru. Here, the ocean is the "frontier," and the

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anchovy of the Humboldt current, which is made into fish meal, the valuable resource being exploited. The fish meal industry of Peru, funded by massive investments of European and North American capital, is a relatively new one. It got underway in the late 1950s and was soon heralded as the salvation of the Peruvian economy. "The ocean was glowingly described as the big new eldorado... the scene of the great adventure of our days" (Borgstrom 1972:763). During the first decade, both catches and profits were huge; during the peak year of 1970, 12.3 million tons of anchovies were scooped from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru (Idyll 1973:26).20 Profit margins were enormous, exceeding 100 percent during the first years, when fish meal sold for $250 to $300 per ton (Borgstrom 1972:766). It is not surprising that thousands of fishermen and fish meal companies were attracted to this venture. But as was the case with the agricultural frontiers reviewed, the boom did not last. The concentration of fish meal plants in one area led to overfishing which resulted in declining yields of anchovy and the capture of young fish. Fishermen began complaining of smaller catches,2 and this, combined with a lower price received for anchovies, $124 per ton in 1968, resulted in considerably reduced profits (Borgstrom 1972:766). The ocean, then, is structurally equivalent to frontier lands in that, like them, it is "cheap" and there for the taking. Just as the supply of fresh frontier land appeared limitless to its exploiters, so too did this natural ocean resource. Also, like their counterparts on land, the fishermen and operators of the fish meal industry apparently gave no thought to the long-range consequences of their over utilization of the anchoveta; as long as profits were high, there was no concern for conserving this valuable resource through a rational program of fish management. Finally, the effects of the dependent status of this frontier zone are comparable to those found on agricultural frontiers: fish meal, an excellent source of high quality protein, was exported to the metropoles for livestock and poultry feed, rather than being used to meet the nutritional requirements of the Peruvian population (Borgstrom 1967:281-282). I had originally planned to include a discussion of the late nineteenth-century citrus industry in northern Florida as another example of the exploitative nature of frontier cash crop agriculture. After reading about the history of citrus in Florida, however, it became apparent that, due to a number of factors, this case did not conform to the thesis of this paper. This example is worth reviewing briefly, however, since as a result of the special circumstances of the Florida frontier and the nature of citrus agriculture, it may be the exception that helps prove the rule. On the surface, the Florida frontier appeared ripe for the sequence of events that occurred on the other frontiers devoted to cash crops discussed in this paper-the combination of an abundance of virgin land and the demand for a valuable cash crop led to the so-called "orange fever" of 1880-1895. Settlers from the North flocked to the Florida frontier spurred on by tales of the fabulous fortunes to be made growing citrus in the land of sunshine. Orange production boomed: between 1870 and 1880 the value of the crop increased fifteenfold, and between 1880 and 1890, it went up sixfold. During the latter decade, the population of the state's orange belt increased by 83 percent (Divine 1952:23, 48-49). Once the groves were established, many planters sat back and waited for the profits to pour in. The neglect of weeding, pruning, and fertilizing the groves led to many failures. The efforts of other cultivators came to nothing because they lacked sufficient capital to sustain themselves and their families until the trees bore their first harvest up to ten years after planting. However, unlike the other frontier agriculturalists reviewed, the Florida

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planters did not push on to newer lands hoping to grow the boom crop profitably, while despoiling the landscape in the process. Rather, most of those who failed in citrus cultivation withdrew from it entirely and returned to their home states in the North. The central question is how did the citrus frontier differ from those already considered, such that its cash crop agricultural regime did not lead to environmental degradation from exploitative cultivation practices? A number of factors seem to be involved. For one, despite the abundance of cultivable land in Florida, rather limited areas of it were close enough to transportation facilities to make citrus cultivation feasible. This was particularly the case when steamboats were the principle means of transporting and marketing the crop, and orange cultivation closely hugged the shores of navigable waterways. The problem was not entirely resolved, however, even after railroad networks crisscrossed the orange belt during the height of the citrus boom; the great weight and bulk of the crop made transporting it even a short distance to the rail lines prohibitively expensive. As a result, undeveloped land very near transportation appreciated rapidly, bringing $40 per acre even during the early years of the boom. Similarly located land with producing trees often sold for $1,000 per acre (Divine 1952:47). Another factor which led to the very rapid increase in land prices on the orange belt was the activities of speculators and land companies. They propagandized potential settlers from outside the state with extravagant tales of the fabulous profits that could be made from citrus and they "created the impression that orange growing was a bonanza which could enrich all who tried it" (Divine 1952:41). It goes without saying that these speculators upped the price of land considerably when they sold it to Northern immigrants. Land companies and individual speculators were also at least partially responsible for creating the illusion that only a modest investment was needed to start an orange grove, while downplaying the fact that up to ten years would elapse before its first harvest. As a result, many arrived on the Florida frontier with far too little capital to see them through; they failed before they had really begun. These people simply lacked the resources to move along with the frontier and invest in somewhat less costly land at its outer edges. Under the circumstances outlined above, it becomes clear why the Florida citrus boom did not follow the course of the other frontier crops discussed previously. Most importantly, there was never a "free" or "cheap" land situation during the period when the demand for oranges far exceeded the supply, making their cultivation an extremely profitable enterprise. Then, too, citrus agriculture requires far greater resources than the other cash crops reviewed, if only because the trees take so long to produce. Finally, because of the length of time between planting and the first harvest, citrus culture is necessarily a more "stable" enterprise than the others discussed; its planters are understandably reluctant to pull up stakes and start over again on new land, only to wait another eight or ten years before their first profits are realized. In one respect, however, the orange boom in northern Florida conforms to the scenario of other cash crops grown in frontier regions. During the period that high prices were received for the crop, the orange belt extended far north of its climatological limits. As a result, a series of killing frosts in the 1890s completely devastated the citrus industry in northern Florida, and the once bountiful groves of the region gave way to pasture in less than a decade.

frontier cultivators as "fugitive species"


At the beginning of this paper, it was suggested that the behavior of frontier cash crop cultivators is analogous to the adaptations of fugitive species. A brief review of the

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evolutionary strategies of these species will point out the similarities between their adaptivegambitsand those of their humancounterparts. In the literature,fugitive species are called by a numberof terms-"r-selectedspecies," "opportunists,""prodigals,"and "pioneers." By whatevername they are known, these 1968:88); they species are "adaptedto changingconditions in time and space" (Margalef are able "to take advantageof transitory and unstable situations" (Leopold 1966:66), and they are successful colonizers because of their "preferencefor unstable, scattered habitats" (MacArthurand Wilson 1967:82). Because of their predilectionfor disturbed ecological conditions, fugitive species frequently are found in habitatsundergoingchange, for example, those that have been modified by humanactivity (Leopold 1966:68). They are "opportunists" that invade virgin soil left uncovered by retreatingglaciersand that occupy "areaswhere a temporaryfreedom from competition accompaniesthe upsetting of the naturalbalanceby axes, plows, bulldozers,etc." (Erdman1965:367). Since fugitive species are able to survive in changing environmentswithin a single and Wilson region, they also are preadaptedto colonizing neighboringregions(MacArthur 1967:82). Good dispersal mechanismswhich enable them to enter proximate areas are essential for their existence, because fugitive species cannot compete successfully with any other species able to invadethe same niche.
They are forever on the move, always becoming extinct in one locality as they succumb to competition and always surviving by reestablishing themselves in some other locality as a new niche opens (Hudson 1951:575).

Time is of the essence for the fugitive species. Its adaptationis heavilydependentupon its ability to take immediate advantageof a newly available niche before more slowly moving competitors enter it. Later, the fugitive will become extinct, but "some of its descendants [will] occupy transitorily a temporarily available niche in some other locality" (Hudson 1951:575). Since fugitive species and their rivalsare able to occupy identical environmental niches, it is not surprisingthat they are closely allied on the evolutionaryscale. It is widely recognized that, as with fugitive species, certain benefits accrue to cultivatorswho are the first to arriveand take advantageof new opportunitiesin frontier situations. Ulrich B. Phillipshas written that cotton cultivatorsin the Piedmontregionof the southern United States were correct in believingthat their success "in the wilderness depended upon a quick exploitation of the best favoredlocalities, upon getting aheadof the crowd" (1929:96). Similarly, Bowman has noted that "a large part of the advantage of pioneeringlies in getting there first, becausethe essence of the thing is to get good land cheap" (1931:6). The "chain speculators"of the North Americanfrontieralso illustrate this point: those who arrivedearly made land claims and, without improvingthe land, sold the claims for $50 to $100 to later settlers before movingwest to make new claims (Gates 1965:52). The gains derivedfrom "being ahead of the crowd" also are apparenton the Brazilian coffee frontier. In northern Parana, upward mobility through land acquisition was possible only to early arrivalson the frontier. Even those with relatively little capital could save enough money to buy frontier plots by sharecropping highly productivecoffee trees on newly cultivatedland. Laterarrivals with few financialresourceslost out because within two decades coffee yields had declined, cutting the sharecropper's profits and eliminatingthe possibility of buying land (Margolis1971). The recurrentcolonization of similar "niches" is another characteristiccommon to both fugitive species and their human counterparts.In many cases, the same individuals led the southwestwardadvanceof the cotton frontier in the United States: one family of

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South Carolinacotton plantersmoved to the Alabamafrontier to set up a plantation,but within ten years they had pushedon to "greenerpastures"in Texas (Eaton 1961:38-39). of the movement In other cases, the children of frontier cultivatorswere in the vanguard west. Then, too, the near depopulation of older cotton (and coffee) regions which the frontier left in its wake is somewhat analogous to the extinction of a ever-advancing in fugitivespecies one locality as its descendantsinvadedand colonized another. There is some evidence that frontier cash crop cultivators, like fugitive species, are As we have seen, "gettingthere first" is unable to compete successfullywith laterarrivals. a necessaryelement in the success of frontieragriculturalists. Manyarriveon the frontier with little capital, so that it is essentialthat land be inexpensiveif they are to purchaseit at all. As the boom crop "takes off" and the supply of virgin land diminishes, land increasesin value, effectively pricingthe cultivatorwith few financialresourcesout of the who bought land frontier. Individuals market.This point is well illustratedon the Parana came to the frontierwith far largercapital after the first decade of colonization invariably reserves than did those who purchased land during the very first years of settlement (Margolis1973:211). It is in the economic sense, then, that most early settlersare unable to compete with later arrivals.After the free or cheap land situation of initial frontier settlement disappears,success-i.e., acquiringland-comes to depend on havingconsiderable financialresourcesat the time of arrivalon the frontier. The final analogy between the strategiesof fugitive species and frontieragriculturalists is their persistence: what works in one locality will work in another. As cash crop frontier, they cultivatorsin Braziland the United States moved along with the advancing methods they had employed in the past. Even if used more or less the same agricultural innovative agriculturaltechniques had been readily accessible and affordable, success rarelydependedupon their adoption. In summary, there are a number of parallels in the adaptive strategies of certain In nonhuman species and the behavioralstrategiesof frontier cash crop agriculturalists. fresh both cases, success is contingent upon breakingnew ground,on takingadvantageof zone. opportunities,on quickly occupying and exploiting a newly availableenvironmental Fugitive species and their human analoguesare also adept at colonizing neighboring(or similar)niches as soon as they open up; their ability to move rapidlyis a key to survival (or success). Their extinction in or migrationfrom one locale does not spell their demise; at least some individualssurvive (or succeed) by movingon to still newer horizons. Finally, although these opportunists usually cannot compete successfully with later arrivals, they neverthelesspersist;by using time-worntechniques, they are able to vacate the old and adapt to the new. conclusion
Short-term benefits are important to people now alive and are valued more highly than benefits to future generations. -S. 1. Schwartz and T. C. Foin in "A Critical Review of the Social Systems Model of Jay Forrester"

The above quotation is particularlyappropriatefor concluding a discussion of the nature of frontier cash crop agricultureand its destructiveeffects on naturalresources. There is a good deal of evidence that, underconditions of uncertainty,humanbeingsopt for schemes with superiorshort-termgains. This is an axiom of humanbehaviorthat has been observed by many scholars in diverse fields. In his analysis of the social and ecological consequences of the Miskito Indians'commercialexploitation of turtles and

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other animal resources, for example, Nietschmann concludes that "short-term economic returns will be gained at the expense of social and ecological disruptions" (1972:66). More pertinent to the subject under discussion is Craven's remark that the only methods employed by frontier cultivators are those "which give greatest immediate returns regardless of future consequences" (1925:21). The adap.tive strategies of cash crop agriculturalists in frontier zones also must be interpreted from the standpoint of the short- versus long-term gains which accrue to them. Cultivators' decisions with respect to the adoption (or nonadoption) of conservation measures are influenced by a number of factors: uncertain natural conditions, price fluctuations, access to untapped frontier resources, and scarcities of labor and capital. If the threats of lower prices and adverse weather conditions are taken into account, it becomes apparent why cultivators are reluctant to invest the relatively large sums necessary to maintain their soil's fertility. Given these conditions, particularly the availability of inexpensive virgin frontier land, the cultivators' interests do not lie in expending their limited capital on conserving their current holdings, especially if soil depletion already has set in. Despite its long-term costs to natural resources, then, the failure to employ conservation techniques must be viewed as a rational choice within the economic and ecological contexts of frontier cash crop agriculture. The opportunistic mentality so often attributed to frontier cultivators also is comprehensible within the framework of these etic conditions. Their orientation toward the present is adaptive, given the uncertain nature of frontier existence brought about by factors largely beyond their control. For these reasons, it is important to bear in mind that the exploitative stance vis-a-vis natural resources found among North American and Brazilian frontier cultivators is not unique; similar values can be expected to prevail wherever similar conditions exist.

notes
A brief version of this paper was presented at the 74th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco in 1975. I am very indebted to Professor Andrew P. Vayda of Rutgers University for introducing me to the literature on fugitive species. I also would like to thank Dr. Jerald T. Milanich and Dr. Donald Rice of the Florida State Museum and Professor Charles Wagley and Mr. Anthony Stocks of the University of Florida for their comments on a draft of this paper. 2The definition of "analogy" used in this paper is as follows: "A resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike" (Gove 1965). 3In recent ecological theory, fugitive species have been termed "r-selected species." r-selected species are species having high rates of reproduction and growth with the ability to exploit unused resources in the early colonization of new ecological niches (Odum 1971:257). Success among such species is linked to their "ability to disperse into an area, establish themselves, and multiply" (Emlen 1973:356). 4Ciriacy-Wantrup summarizes the reasons for this: "An economy that produces mainly for home consumption utilizes its resources more conservatively, as a rule, than one that produces largely for sale at distant markets. The former usually is more diversified, more immune from price fluctuations, less subject to adverse effects of taxation, credit, and tenure" (1963:13). sThe Northern Parana Improvement Company (Compania Melhoramentos Norte do Parana), which colonized much of this region, offered relatively generous payment plans; 40 percent of the price of the land as a down payment, with the balance to be paid over a four year period (Margolis 1973:37). 6The coffee plantations often were sold to settlers from Minas Gerais who were establishing cattle ranches. In many cases, however, when the coffee planters defaulted on their loans, their holdings were taken over by the banks (see Stein 1957). 7One bag contains sixty kilograms of coffee. 8This contradicts the "safety-valve theory" of frontier settlement, which argues that in hard times the poor and unemployed moved west to buy cheap land and set up farms. The frontier was said to

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afford an "escape mechanism" which drained excess workers from the urban areas of the East (see Turner 1920 and Billington 1966). 9The most recent frost in southern Brazil, which is reputed to be the most severe one in at least fifty years, occurred in July, 1975. It is estimated to have destroyed 70 percent of the country's coffee crop (Gainesville Sun, August 14, 1975). 1 Coffee cultivation continued its expansion into extreme western Parana and into Paraguay in the late 1960s and early 1970s, despite the relatively low price received for the crop. However, it was still the most profitable cash crop in the region (see Margolis 1973, Ch. 8). 1 This is a particularly acute problem for coffee cultivators, since the trees take four years to produce their first harvest, and it is not until the fifth year after planting that full yields are produced. 12One study carried out in Jamaica found that farmers were willing to adopt conservation measures, but the scarcity of capital and labor prevented them from doing so. Further, "there proved to be a strong relationship between capital availability and the acceptance of capital requiring soil conservation measures; generally only those with more than the average amount of capital responded" (Blaut, et al. 1959:419). 1 There are still frontier lands suitable for coffee cultivation in Paraguay. These offer a more limited "escape hatch" for Brazilian planters, however, since their utilization requires operating in a foreign country. 14See Margolis (1973:68-69) for comparative costs and profits for coffee, cotton, corn, and cattle in a county in northern Parana. 15Colonos are workers paid on a monthly basis to care for a given number of coffee trees. This system was widely used in Sao Paulo and to a lesser extent on the Paranafrontier. 16For an excellent discussion of the class relations produced by varying land and labor arrangements in export-propelled agricultural systems see Paige (1975). lBanks were ready to extend credit for cotton and coffee for which they knew there was a demand, but not for other crops, particularly food crops, with dubious marketability. 18The example of resource exploitation on the Virginia and Maryland frontiers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is particularly relevant here, since it demonstrates that the opportunistic behavior of frontier cash crop cultivators is not limited to the context of subtropical crops for which a demand developed in the nineteenth century. 19The plow did not come into general use in tobacco cultivation until late in the colonial period, when the land into which the crop could expand was nearly exhausted and "old lands" were again cultivated (Craven 1926:35). 20The actual catch of anchovies in 1970 is conservatively estimated at thirteen to fourteen million tons when losses from spoilage are included in the total. This far exceeds the ten-million-ton maximum sustainable yield recommended by fishery biologists (Idyll 1973:29). 21"El Nino," a natural ecological change in the waters off the coast of Peru, is possibly also responsible for the decline in the anchovy catch. During El Nino the coastal waters rise in temperature, and this, in combination with the dwindling of the microscopic plants and animals off which the anchovies feed, leads to a scattering of the fish so that they are no longer available in enormous quantities to fishermen. There is no doubt, however, that over-fishing has worsened the effects of El Niho and "there is some reason to fear that the world's greatest stock of fish may have been irreversibly damaged." (Idyll 1973:28).

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