Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Portrait of a Learning Farm: Re-rooting Selves, Natures, and Relationships
by La Rochelle, Margaret Laura, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2015, 216; 3737011
Abstract (Summary)

This ethnography explores the practices and activities of an experiential learning program in sustainable agriculture, the Student Experimental Farm at the University of California, Davis, from a community development and social justice perspective. We need more dialogue about the work to imagine and live new futures—ways in which human beings might rectify the social and environmental contradictions created by structural and historical injustices in their own lives and organizations. We need more records of the activities and approaches of programs attempting to do the work of changing a system inside and out—the subversive work of peaceful and self-determined adaptation to a more just way of working with ourselves, other people and nature. And importantly, we need more records of programs working in public view; not just in the oft-detached realms of liberal counterculture, though these spaces can be creatively rejuvenating, but in the institutions of education and politics—land grant universities in particular—that still carry much weight in the agricultural field, to which many practitioners are connected, and which most still consult as a major resource for guidance and knowledge.

This research is framed by three broad relationships for inquiry: the individual’s relationship to oneself in the learning process, social relationships between members of a learning community, and institutional relationships that frame activity. In discussion I address issues of the opportunity for critical transformation in experiential learning, meaning and motivation for individuals in the learning process, and emphasize the value of peer relationships and a broader learning community for successful results. I present various social tensions between responding to the needs of both novice and advanced learners; between education and production in the student farm setting; and in socio-spatial identity and meanings. I argue for building communities of inquiry in sustainable agriculture education more proactively, with the goal of acknowledging cultural difference and working for social equity from the inside out.

Additionally, I discuss institutional relationships and structures at the Student Farm and in the undergraduate major in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SA&F) staff, educators and students have developed to adapt existing institutional structures for more shared power in decision-making and progressive learning aims. I offer research findings, discussion and recommendations as resources that can be consulted by educators, student farmers, and those interested in developing contextualized learning programs for the purposes of social justice, sustainability, and community development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Owens, Patsy E.
Commitee: Galt, Ryan E., Parr, Damian M.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Geography, Agricultural education, Sustainability, Higher education
Keywords: Community development, Experimental farms, Social justice, Sustainability, Sustainable agriculture
Publication Number: 3737011
ISBN: 9781339260846
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