Wayne County Area Organic Farming: Ideology and Behavior

Elizabeth Wiemels, The College of Wooster


I had an interest in organic farming and prepared a literature review on the topic. I did not find many small-scale studies that sought the meaning of organic farming from the farmers' perspectives. I decided to perform a small qualitative study of organic farmers in order to try to understand their motivations and obtain an insider's view of their alternative agricultural perspective. I interviewed twelve organic or more alternative farmers in the Wayne County area surrounding the College of Wooster, the organic certification coordinator, and a scientist from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. I asked basic questions about the structures of their farms, their backgrounds in organic farming, lifestyles, perceptions of food, and thoughts about government and business involvement. I chose symbolic anthropology to discuss the cultural meanings farmers communicated to me about food, the Marxian cultural materialist approach to consider organic farming as a market-driven business, and new social movement theory to discuss how the organic farmers are a somewhat united force in Wayne County agriculture. I also compared the interview findings to the elements of the conventional and alternative paradigms in agriculture outlined by Beus and Dunlap. The fmdings of this study indicate that my sample is representative of a growing social movement in agriculture towards organic farming. Their perceptions generally fit into the idealized alternative model in agriculture. Their symbolic perceptions of food and the environment appeared to outweigh their market motivations to farm organically. Finally, with this study as a resource, I concluded with speculations on the future of organic farming in Wayne County.


© Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Wiemels