Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Environmental Program

First Advisor

Katharine Anderson

Second Advisor

Thomas Macias

Third Advisor

Adrian Ivakhiv

Keywords

community supported agriculture (CSA), organic, indicators, farmer, success and perceptions

Abstract

Since sustainable agriculture exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, researchers and practitioners have posed the question of what makes agriculture truly sustainable. Sustainability is typically thought to encompass ecological, social and economic dimensions. Many studies have attempted to measure sustainability on farms, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Qualitative methods often use a subjective approach, which allows for exploration of farmer perceptions of sustainability. Using grounded theory methodology, this case study explored how two farmers perceive and practice sustainability on their small, diversified farm in Maryland. Semi-structured interviews and participant observation were conducted for four weeks. The interview data was used to develop a set of indicators for measuring sustainability, using four components: ecological, social, economic and farmer well-being. The farmers were then asked to rate themselves on a one to five scale on each of the indicators, based upon their current progress toward sustainability. Use of the farmers’ responses directly meant that they were able to create their own self-assessment tool for sustainability. The study provided a useful framework for future attempts to evaluate farmer perceptions of sustainability.

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