Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

David J. Peters


Recent trends have shown that organic agriculture in the United States may longer form a homogeneous group. To better understand the spatial pattern of organic farming, the overall research objective is to examine organic agriculture and its ecological, technological, and socioeconomic correlates based on an agroecosystem framework combining Hernandez's model and Flora and Flora's community capitals framework.

Using multiple measures of organic agriculture at the meso-scale during the period between 2007 and 2012, results from cluster analysis indicate that the typology of N=3,069 counties includes a majority of Low Intensity places, two groups of Moderate and High Intensity clusters that have seen a relatively large concentrate of organic farms and sales, and a small number of counties in clusters of Growing Farms and Growing Sales are rapidly expanding in place dominated by conventional agriculture.

Through multinomial logistic regression, regional differences of organic farming are strongly associated with environmental factors such as climate and topography. Although technology employment has little effects on organic production, organic intensive places tend to have more diverse farm operations by having more women operators and direct sales to people and the community. Results show mixed support to link organic production systems with better socioeconomic settings. Places with moderate organic activity generally are more ethnically diverse and better educated. Nevertheless, they tend to have high dependency ratio. Places with high intensity organic production have higher labor force participation and higher community engagement; they also have higher rates of poverty. Further, organic market expansion is also associated with the services economy, for moderate intensity places tend to have more services occupations and organic service enterprises.

To identify significant patterns of organic spatial dependence, a local indicator of spatial association (LISA) using G* statistic is used to examine local pocket of spatial concentration. Results indicate that organic hot spots are primarily located in the New England, along the Pacific Coast, around the Northern Great Lakes, and in the Mountain West. In terms of organic geography, high (low) organic places tend to be located near other high (low) organic places.

Despite government support of organic farming has mostly been limited to creating a legislative standard and organic certification, the findings bring awareness that indirect political influences through the markets such as farm-to-school program are more likely to assist with the organic development. While higher intensive of organic production exhibits signs of conventionalization because they tend to be large-scale and capital intensive, the results didn't find that smaller organic growers are been marginalized. By contrast, small- and middle-sized organic production tends to stay true to the traditional and movement-oriented organic.

To broadly capture the organic heterogeneity, this study suggests more analytical attention to complex interactions among environmental, socioeconomic, and political drivers, ranging from agricultural nature, such as historical geography, to local socioeconomic contexts and the corresponding community-embedded relations.


Copyright Owner

Hui-Ju Kuo



File Format


File Size

130 pages

Included in

Sociology Commons