Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 153–165 | Cite as

The once and future georgic: agricultural practice, environmental knowledge, and the place for an ethic of experience

  • Benjamin R. CohenEmail author


This paper re-introduces the georgic ethic and the role it has historically played in debates about new agricultural practices. Public engagement, participatory research, and greater local involvement in crafting new means to work the land flood the literature of agrarian studies. Putting the experience- and place-based georgic into that discourse can help deepen its character and future possibilities. The paper draws from recent sociological research into the acceptance and resistance to new practices to show the georgic’s explanatory, descriptive utility in studies of those controversies. It also highlights how agricultural and environmental ethicists can draw from the georgic tradition for its prescriptive and normative possibilities to put practitioners back into the agricultural policy process and to draw more firmly from the notion that knowledge of the environment is constituted in practices of living in it. Placing the language and terms of the georgic ethic more centrally into public conversations about agricultural ethics and policy can enrich those conversations by structuring them with attention to experience, place-based values, and the moral space of interaction between humans and the land.


Ethics Experiential knowledge Genetically-modified Georgic Participatory Pastoral Place-based Pragmatist philosophy Scientific practice Sustainable agriculture Technology Virgil 



Genetically-modified organisms


Practical Farmers of Iowa



The author wishes to thank Jason Delborne, Wyatt Galusky, Gwen Ottinger, Laura Sayre, Paul Thompson, Harvey James, Nancy Grudens-Schuck, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and assistance on the preparation of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science, Technology, and SocietyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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