FARMERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF SUSTAINABILITY AND LAND ETHIC: IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY CURRICULA
Solinsky, Cynthia Diane
School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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This was a qualitative study of discourses and practices reported by a sample (n = 45) of self identified sustainable farmers in central Wisconsin. I collected survey data, conducted farm visits, interviews, and analyzed map data. I used a theoretical framework modified from Leopold’s (1949) work on land ethics and the A-B cleavage, which was Leopold's description of the contrast between utilitarian value versus a broader definition of value in nature. I found that participants’ discourses and practices were distributed across a range of four categories. Farmers in Cleavage A regard land as soil and its function as commodity production; in Cleavage A+, soil regeneration is incorporated in daily agricultural practices; in Cleavage B, land is a biota and functions for more than personal benefits; and in Cleavage B+, land is actively managed for not only food, but also actively managed for wildlife. Secondary functions are regarded as valuable and necessary to regenerate and sustain a healthy environment. I found that participants who self-identified as sustainable farmers were reportedly managing their land in ways that I analyzed as Cleavages A+ to B+. I also found that most participants (68%) reportedly attended college before farming, and supported curricula for sustainability. I conclude that these findings show the importance of educational sustainability throughout majors in higher education classes. I make three recommendations for curricula, for agriculture, and for further research.