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Reconstructing the good farmer identity: shifts in farmer identities and farm management practices to improve water quality

  • Jean McGuire


  • Lois Morton
  • Alicia Cast
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    All farmers have their own version of what it means to be a good farmer. For many US farmers a large portion of their identity is defined by the high input, high output production systems they manage to produce food, fiber or fuel. However, the unintended consequences of highly productivist systems are often increased soil erosion and the pollution of ground and surface water. A large number of farmers have conservationist identities within their good farmer identity, however their conservation goals often need to be activated to rebalance the production-conservation meanings they give to their roles in society. In this paper we analyze US Cornbelt farmer interviews and surveys to trace how the performance-based environmental management process can be used to influence the farmer social identity and shift the overall good farmer identity towards a stronger conservationist standard. We find the continuous feedback loop in performance-based environmental management mimics the hierarchically organized feedback control processes of identity verification and can be used to help farmers activate their conservationist farmer identities at the person, role, and social levels to establish new norms for the practice of more sustainable agriculture. Copyright The Author(s) 2013

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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 30 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 57-69

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:30:y:2013:i:1:p:57-69
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    1. Lois Morton & Chih Weng, 2009. "Getting to better water quality outcomes: the promise and challenge of the citizen effect," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 83-94, March.
    2. Robert J. Sheeder & Gary D. Lynne, 2011. "Empathy-Conditioned Conservation: “Walking in the Shoes of Others” as a Conservation Farmer," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 87(3), pages 433-452.
    3. Gary D. Lynne & J. S. Shonkwiler & Leandro R. Rola, 1988. "Attitudes and Farmer Conservation Behavior," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 70(1), pages 12-19.
    4. Adam Reimer & Aaron Thompson & Linda Prokopy, 2012. "The multi-dimensional nature of environmental attitudes among farmers in Indiana: implications for conservation adoption," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 29-40, March.
    5. Stewart Lockie, 1998. "Environmental and social risks, and the construction of “best-practice” in Australian agriculture," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 243-252, September.
    6. Hayley H. Chouinard & Tobias Paterson & Philip R. Wandschneider & Adrienne M. Ohler, 2008. "Will Farmers Trade Profits for Stewardship? Heterogeneous Motivations for Farm Practice Selection," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(1), pages 66-82.
    7. Clark P. Bishop & C. Richard Shumway & Philip R. Wandschneider, 2010. "Agent Heterogeneity in Adoption of Anaerobic Digestion Technology: Integrating Economic, Diffusion, and Behavioral Innovation Theories," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 86(3).
    8. Maybery, Darryl & Crase, Lin & Gullifer, Chris, 2005. "Categorising farming values as economic, conservation and lifestyle," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 59-72, February.
    9. Nicholas Sitko, 2008. "Maize, food insecurity, and the field of performance in southern Zambia," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 3-11, January.
    10. Thomas L. Dobbs & Jules N. Pretty, 2004. "Agri-Environmental Stewardship Schemes and “Multifunctionality”," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 220-237.
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