Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sustainable practices and sustainability ideology on small farms in north-central West Virginia
by Zickefoose, Amanda, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2016, 335; 10586353
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines farming practices and ideologies through the lens of sustainability rhetoric. While “conventional” and “sustainable” agriculture are often set in opposition in the literature, this research shows how, in West Virginia, small farmers who identify as being in both camps actually use many of the same methods and practices. Consequently, these farming operations are characterized not as contrasts and opposites, but rather as a spectrum with methods varying more by degree than type. In the literature, sustainable farmers are often described as employing practices that prioritize the environment and community, whereas conventional farmers purportedly use practices that maximize profit at a cost to the environment. Such a dichotomy suggests that sustainable farmers utilize methods entirely different from conventional farmers. This study reveals that small farmers of both types use many of the same agricultural practices for similar reasons, and argues for an analytic distinction between “sustainable practices” and “sustainability ideology”. The ideologies and practices involved in agricultural operations in the United States are contentious issues, with differences in opinions and values competing at the levels of household decision-making, market principles, and federal policy. For some, there is increasing concern about the impacts of conventional agriculture, producing alternatives such as organic agriculture and re-localization efforts. Sustainability rhetoric often depicts the alternatives almost entirely in opposition to conventional agriculture, and stereotypes that are based on large scale, conventional agricultural operations are extended to any conventional farm regardless of size and scale. This study reveals the actual practices and ideologies of small farmers who identify as conventional or sustainable and highlights sustainability ideology in order to help understand why there is not more collaboration among the conventional and sustainable farmers. By demonstrating that conventional small farmers do not always employ the same methods as agribusiness farmers and instead more often resemble sustainable farmers (although at times with a different ideology), this study argues for increased collaboration among rural small farmers of both types, as well as those who work with them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scaglion, Richard
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Social research, Agriculture, Sustainability
Keywords: Conventional agriculture, Sustainable agriculture, West Virginia
Publication Number: 10586353
ISBN: 9781369657265
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