Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Sociology
Journal or Book Title
In this article we examine in-depth interviews with farmers (n = 159) from nine Corn Belt states. Using a grounded theory approach, we identified a “soil stewardship ethic,” which exemplifies how farmers are talking about building the long-term sustainability of their farm operation in light of more variable and extreme weather events. Findings suggest that farmers' shifting relationship with their soil resources may act as a kind of social-ecological feedback that enables farmers to implement adaptive strategies (e.g., no-till farming, cover crops) that build resilience in the face of increasingly variable and extreme weather, in contrast to emphasizing short-term adjustments to production that may lead to greater vulnerability over time. The development of a soil stewardship ethic may help farmers to resolve the problem of an apparent trade-off between short-term productivist goals and long-term conservation goals and in doing so may point toward an emergent aspect of a conservationist identity. Focusing on the message of managing soil health to mitigate weather-related risks and preserving soil resources for future generations may provide a pragmatic solution for helping farmers to reorient farm production practices, which would have soil building and soil saving at their center.
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Roesch-McNally, Gabrielle; Arbuckle, J. Gordon; and Tyndall, John C., "Soil as Social-Ecological Feedback: Examining the “Ethic” of Soil Stewardship among Corn Belt Farmers" (2017). Natural Resource Ecology and Management Publications. 267.