Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 123-143

First online:

Farmers’ attitudes about farming and the environment: A survey of conventional and organic farmers

  • Shannon SullivanAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  • , Elizabeth MccannAffiliated withCollege of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
  • , Raymond De YoungAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  • , Donna EricksonAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan

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Farmers have been characterized as people whose ties to the land have given them a deep awareness of natural cycles, appreciation for natural beauty and sense of responsibility as stewards. At the same time, their relationship to the land has been characterized as more utilitarian than that of others who are less directly dependent on its bounty. This paper explores this tension by comparing the attitudes and beliefs of a group of conventional farmers to those of a group of organic farmers. It was found that while both groups reject the idea that a farmer’s role is to conquer nature, organic farmers were significantly more supportive of the notion that humans should live in harmony with nature. Organic farmers also reported a greater awareness of and appreciation for nature in their relationship with the land. Both groups view independence as a main benefit of farming and a lack of financial reward as its main drawback. Overall, conventional farmers report more stress in their lives although they also view themselves in a caretaker role for the land more than do the organic farmers. In contrast, organic farmers report more satisfaction with their lives, a greater concern for living ethically, and a stronger perception of community. Finally, both groups are willing to have their rights limited (organic farmers somewhat more so) but they do not trust the government to do so.


environmental attitudes organic farming environmental ethics