Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural Education and Studies

First Advisor

Nancy Grudens-Schuck


This institutional ethnography was undertaken to address the problematic that far fewer women than men participate in the institution of agricultural conservation despite the fact that about the same numbers of men and women own roughly equal amounts of agricultural land in the U.S. Midwest. The institution of agricultural conservation---governmental agencies and private non-profit organizations---provides conservation services such as technical assistance and funding to clients, private farmland owners, who implement conservation practices on their lands.;As a qualitative research methodology, institutional ethnography (IE) is a way to examine otherwise intractable or elusive problems that exist on an institutional level. This IE researcher stood shoulder-to-shoulder with clients---women farmland owners---and looked into the institution to examine processes and ruling relations that influence activities of the institution. Data were gathered concurrently from textual analyses of forms, letters, and other institutional publications and from conversations, interviews, and observations of interactions with women farmland owners and conservation workers.;Analyses revealed ideologies on a continuum ranging from land-as-community orientations (that tend to favor restoring healthy ecosystem functions) to land-as-commodity orientations (that tend to favor the business and economic values of conservation programs). The institution of agricultural conservation favors land as commodity to the detriment of people who hold land-as-community values, such as women farmland owners, some men farmland owners, and some conservation workers. The key finding---the institution of agricultural conservation is failing to meet the needs of constituents who hold land-as-community orientations---leads to an overarching recommendation--- the institution of agricultural conservation must change.;The institution of agricultural conservation should (1) document all requests for conservation services; (2) reshape policy at federal, state, and local levels to extend programs and services to underserved constituents and to provide more inclusive agricultural conservation practices and informal education; (3) train conservation workers at all levels to support inclusive policies and services.;Further, the systems (e.g., ecological and agricultural education at all levels, including higher education) that prepare people to own farmland and work in the institution of agricultural conservation must evaluate their philosophies and processes to support changes in the institution of agricultural conservation.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jean Crim Eells



Proquest ID


OCLC Number




File Format


File Size

239 pages