Meeting the Expectations of People and the Land: Enacting Sustainable Agriculture
With support from NCR-SARE 15 follow-up interviews of high school respondents of a 1948 survey of occupational aspirations, now in their 70s, will be conducted. The interviews focus on what people from farm backgrounds and rural communities expect agriculture to provide for them. The interviews will help inform a sociology of expectations within the context of agriculture. Understanding farmer expectations will lead to better policy and programs encouraging farmers to stay in farming, pass their farms on to the next generation, and also entice new people into farming as an occupation and a livelihood.
The primary objective of the proposed research is to gain a deeper understanding of the sociology of expectations from within the context of farming as an occupation in Wisconsin. The research will answer the questions of what farmers and potential farmers expect agriculture to provide for them, for their family and their community. Farmer expectations will be placed within the system of “the expectations of the land” and the expectations of the larger society that buys and consumes agricultural products.
In the short-term this project will inform ongoing and future initiatives and policy focused on keeping agricultural land in production. Such work is often focused on economic issues and environmental “services” provided by agriculture as a land use. This project will ensure that social issues of farmers, farm families, and farm communities will be better considered.
The immediate-term outcome of this project is to better understand farmer expectations to create better policy and programs encouraging farmers to stay in farming, pass their farms on to the next generation, and also entice new people into farming as an occupation and a livelihood.
And finally, the long-term outcome of this project is to have a vibrant agriculture that does not “deplete soils or people.”
The primary of accomplishments of the project through December 31, 2007 were;
– laying the groundwork for understanding the agriculture and farming in the study area of Richland County;
– devising sample guidelines, and locating appropriate 1948 respondents to interview.
Richland County, Wisconsin has a very established historical society. Many hours were spent in the archives reading about agriculture and farming then and now as well as looking for information to help in locating the 1948 respondents. Two respondents, willing to have an interview, were located and interviewed. These interviews were transcribed and the data gathered analyzed.
The main task for the remaining grant period in 2008 is to complete 13 interviews to reach the targeted 15 interviews.
In addition graduate student Sarah Lloyd took part in the Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Letters, Future of Farming and Rural Life project. She attended four of the five regional public forums and the final statewide forum on the future of farming and rural life. This gave her the opportunity to listen to public thoughts and concerns about agriculture and what people expect agriculture to provide for farmers and the community. In addition she was able to be part of the public conversation. The final report from the Wisconsin Academy project does include language about the importance of farming as an occupation and what needs farmers have to stay in farming, as well as how to attract new farmers into the profession.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This project will continue to work to insert the social issues of agricultural expectations into the public debate on the future of farming and agriculture. From an academic perspective, this research will aid in the understanding of the sociology of expectations.
Farming is an essential part of the ecological, economic, and social health of the North Central Region. Understanding farmer expectations will lead to better policy and programs encouraging farmers to stay in farming, pass their farms on to the next generation, and also entice new people into farming as an occupation and a livelihood.