Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 29-40

First online:

The multi-dimensional nature of environmental attitudes among farmers in Indiana: implications for conservation adoption

  • Adam P. ReimerAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University Email author 
  • , Aaron W. ThompsonAffiliated withCollege of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • , Linda S. ProkopyAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

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Attempts to understand farmer conservation behavior based on quantitative socio-demographic, attitude, and awareness variables have been largely inconclusive. In order to understand fully how farmers are making conservation decisions, 32 in-depth interviews were conducted in the Eagle Creek watershed in central Indiana. Coding for environmental attitudes and practice adoption revealed several dominant themes, representing multi-dimensional aspects of environmental attitudes. Farmers who were motivated by off-farm environmental benefits and those who identified responsibilities to others (stewardship) were most likely to adopt conservation practices. Those farmers who focused on the farm as business and were most concerned about profitability were less likely to adopt practices. The notion of environmental stewardship in particular was found to be much more complex than the way it is traditionally measured in quantitative studies. The interplay between on-farm and off-farm benefits to practice adoption is an issue that quantitative studies largely do not address. This study seeks to increase understanding of farmers’ environmental attitudes and the connections to conservation behavior.


Environmental attitudes Conservation practice BMP Adoption Stewardship On-farm benefits Off-farm benefits