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Unit 5

5.8 The Von Thunen Model

3 min readmay 4, 2020

Pooja Kalyan

AP Human Geography 🚜

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The Von Thunen Model attempts to differentiate between land use patterns based on the different scales of agricultural production. More specifically, it relates transportation costs to distance from the market in an attempt to further explain rural land use. But, just like any model, it has its own (unrealistic) assumptions, which we will note in this section.  It predicts: 
  • More intensive rural land-uses closer to the marketplace 
    • Example: Commercial farming of milk (dairying)
      • Farms locate closer to urban areas to minimize distance and lower transportation costs (otherwise, the milk will spoil)
      • They don’t need as much space, so they can afford the higher price of land in regions closer to the market 
  • More extensive rural land-uses further from the marketplace 
    • Example: Ranching 
      • Livestock need plenty of land to graze, so farmers occupied land further out, where there was a lot of it at a relatively low price. 
      • When the von Thunen Model was developed, the livestock were not killed until they reached the city market (so refrigeration/keeping the meat fresh wasn’t an issue)
  • *These rural land-use zones are represented by concentric rings in the model 

The Four Zones

There are four zones or concentric rings represented in the von Thunen Model, with the solid center core (not included as a ring) being the central city. 
  • Zone 1: Intensive agriculture and dairying 
    • Fresh milk, dairy products, certain fruits and vegetables 
    • These products spoil quickly and are high in demand, so they needed to be closest to the marketplace 
    • This farmland was high in demand (because of its accessibility) and very expensive as a result 
  • Zone 2: Forest 
    • Firewood and fuel production 
    • Carrying heavy loads would be difficult if it was located far from the central city 
    • When the von Thunen Model was created, forest material was high in demand for building and fuel (so it needed to get to the market quickly!) 
  • Zone 3: Extensive field crops 
    • This includes grains for bread (which require larger chunks of land for growing/harvesting) 
    • Grains last for long periods of time, are lightweight, and can be stored easily 
    • Situated further from the center because
      • last longer than dairy products
      •  cheaper to transport than forest resources 
  • Zone 4: Ranching
    • Cheap pasture range is abundant further from the center 
    • Once livestock were raised, they were driven “on the hoof” to the city market (reducing the cost of transporting them such a long distance)


  • The region doesn’t have any outside influences that could disturb the internal economy (i.e. an isolated region) 
  • The soil and climate are uniform throughout the area 
  • A completely flat region -> no river valleys or mountains that would affect travel
  • There is only one centrally located city in the region surrounded by unoccupied land 
  • Farmers would transport their own goods to the market (by oxcart, straight to the city, etc.) 
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In Short 

  • Transportation costs determined agricultural activities and the spatial arrangement of them 
  • The Model = the center city and four concentric zones (the inner two are intensive, the outer two are extensive) 
    • Center City (solid core) 
    • Dairying and Intensive Agriculture 
    • Forest 
    • Extensive Field Crops 
    • Ranching 
  • Main assumptions for this model 
    • Flat land 
    • One centrally located city 
    • There are no disturbances to the economy

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