Skip to main content

Bridging the Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Public Sector Agricultural Professionals Working with Amish and Mennonite Producers on Conservation

Abstract

As Amish and Old Order and Conservative Mennonite (i.e., Plain) farmers increase their presence in the agricultural sector, it is crucial for public sector agricultural professionals to effectively work with them to mediate nonpoint source pollution and address issues like the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. However, there is a dearth of research on how public sector agricultural professionals can better work with Plain producers on environmental management. There are also few training resources for those working with this key, yet hard to reach, population. Additionally, due to their religious doctrines, Plain communities strive to live apart from the “world” and may be discouraged from working with government entities and attending non-Plain people events. This study analyzes interview data from 23 Amish farmers in one region of Indiana and 18 public sector agricultural professionals from a variety of backgrounds and geographies in areas of the U.S. with heavy Plain populations. Public sector agricultural professionals identified some key agronomic challenges on Plain farms related to issues like poor pasture and manure management as well as socio-cultural challenges such as restrictions on electronic and phone communication. Educators should design outreach strategies that take into consideration that faith convictions and conservation concerns may vary greatly based on the specificities of the particular Plain church group. By better understanding this population and how to work with them, public sector agricultural professionals can more effectively work towards addressing environmental problems with this under-served group.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Anabaptists are Christians who broke off from other key Protestant reformers based on their dedication to adult baptism and ideas of separation of church and state (viewed as an extension of “worldly” power).

  2. Much of the existing literature just focuses on the Amish but conservation and Extension public sector agricultural professionals also work with conservative Mennonites and experience overlapping challenges in working with them. Thus, we are including both in our discussions here despite the even greater lack of research on Mennonites.

  3. Grounded theory denotes a kind of research where theory is generated through the systematic research (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss and Corbin 1998).

  4. The researchers obtained permission from the Institutional Review Board at Purdue University to conduct this research.

  5. After some preliminary joint coding had been conducted, the number of codes were consolidated as there is a tendency of researchers to create more codes than is necessary for rigorous assessment given the ease of creating codes in NVivo (Welsh 2002).

  6. For description of kappa coefficient see (Cohen 1960; Viera and Garretr 2005). The two main authors jointly analyzed three out of the eighteen interviews (i.e., 16% of the sample), which is higher than recommended as (Miles and Huberman 1994) recommends <10% of the sample.

  7. For more details about the interview and survey data collection methods, please see (Ulrich-Schad et al. 2017).

  8. The scope was limited to one specific area partly because it can be an involved process to research an underserved group who are harder to reach through contemporary communication channels (i.e., phone and email) (e.g., Bergefurd 2011; Brock and Barham 2009; Hoorman and Spencer 2001). Because this is a case study and the Amish are very diverse between different churches, this Berne study was not meant to be entirely replicable (an indicator of reliability) to other Amish communities.

  9. Swiss Amish are sometimes considered more conservative than Old Order Amish because of their use of open buggies and their strict application of church discipline (Nolt and Meyers 2007).

  10. Definitions vary as to how many rotations are necessary for it to be considered managed grazing.

  11. A professional who was interviewed for this study discussed the efficiency of this cheese factory compensating farmers to implement conservation practices. This case study is discussed more extensively in (Parker et al. 2009)’s publication.

References

  • Agunga R (1997) Developing the third world: a communication approach. Nova Science Publishers, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson M (2012) New ecological paradigm (NEP) scale 6. Berkshire Publishing Group, Great Barrington, Massachusetts

    Google Scholar 

  • Bakeman R, Gottman JM (1986) Observing interaction: An introduction to sequential analysis. University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Barbercheck M, Brasier K, Kiernan NE, Sachs C, Trauger A (2014) Use of conservation practices by women farmers in the Northeastern United States. Renew Agric Food Syst 29:65–82. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1742170512000348

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baumgart-Getz A, Prokopy LS, Floress K (2012) Why farmers adopt best management practice in the United States: A meta-analysis of the adoption literature. J Environ Manag 96:17–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.10.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bergefurd B (2011) Assessing extension needs of Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite produce auction farmers. Master’s Thesis. Ohio State University, Columbus

  • Berry W (1981) Seven Amish farms: In the gift of the good land: Further essays cultural and agricultural. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Blackburn D (1989) Foundations and changing practices in extension. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON

    Google Scholar 

  • Blake K, Cardamone E, Hall S, Harris G, Moore S (1997) Modern Amish farming as ecological agriculture. Soc Nat Resour 10:143–159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boeni M et al. (2014) Organic matter composition in density fractions of Cerrado Ferralsols as revealed by CPMAS C-13 NMR: Influence of pastureland, cropland and integrated crop-livestock. Agric Ecosyst Environ 190:80–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2013.09.024

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brock C, Barham B (2009) Farm structural change of a different kind: alternative dairy farms in Wisconsin - graziers, organic and Amish. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 24:25–37

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brock C, Barham B (2015) Amish dedication to farming and adoption of organic dairy systems. In: Freyer B, Bingen J (eds) Re-Thinking organic food and farming in a changing world. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp 233–255. 10.1007/978-94-017-9190-8_12

  • Brock C, Reschly S (2016) Anabaptist communities. In: Riney-Kehrberg P (ed) The Routledge history of rural America. Routledge Press, Florence, KY, pp 230–242

    Google Scholar 

  • Cates J (2014) Serving the Amish: A cultural guide for professionals. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MY

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen J (1960) A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educ Psychosoc Meas 20:37–46

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cross JA (2014) Continuity and change: Amish dairy farming in Wisconsin over the past decade. Geogr Rev 104:52–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1931-0846.2014.12004.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cross JA (2015) Change and sustainability issues in America’s Dairyland. Focus on. Geography 58:173–183. https://doi.org/10.1111/foge.12060

    Google Scholar 

  • Donnermeyer JF, Anderson C, Cooksey EC (2013) The Amish population: County estimates and settlement patterns. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 1:72–109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap R, Van Liere K (1978) The new environmental paradigm: a proposed measuring instrument and preliminary result. J Environ Educ 9:10–19

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE (2008) The new environmental paradigm scale: From marginality to worldwide use. J Environ Educ 40:3–18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Franz N, Piercy F, Donaldson J, Richard R, Westbrook J (2010) How farmers learn: Implications for agricultural educators. J Rural Soc Sci 25:37–59

  • Franzluebbers AJ, Paine LK, Winsten JR, Krome M, Sanderson MA, Ogles K, Thompson D (2012) Well-managed grazing systems: A forgotten hero of conservation. J Soil Water Conserv 67:100A–104A. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.67.4.100A

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner W (ed) (1995) On the reliability of sequential data: Measurement meaning and correction. In Gottman JM (ed) The analysis of change. pp 339–359. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ

  • Glaser BG, Strauss AL (1967) The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago, IL

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenhalgh T, Taylor R (1997) How to read a paper: Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research). BMJ 315:740–743. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7110.740

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hockman-Wert D (1998) The role of religion in motivating sustainability: The case of the Old Order Amish in Kishacoquillas Valley, PA Masters of Art. University of Oregon. MA Thesis, University of Oregon

  • Hoorman J, Spencer E (2001) Engagement and outreach with Amish audiences. J High Educ Outreach Engagem 7:157–168

    Google Scholar 

  • Jackson M (1988) Amish agriculture and no-till: the hazards of applying the USLE to unusual farms. J Soil Water Conserv 43:483–486

    Google Scholar 

  • Javier EQ (1989) Recent approaches in the study and management of the linkages between agricultural research and extension. ISNAR Staff Notes 89–63

  • Jepsen SD, Mann AD (2015) Efforts to improve roadway safety: A collaborative approach between Amish communities and a professional engineering society. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 3:151–174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kline D (2010) Letters from larksong: An Amish naturalist explores his organic farm hardcover. Wooster Book Company, Wooster, OH

    Google Scholar 

  • Kogelmann WJ, Bryant RB, Lin HS, Beegle DB, Weld JL (2006) Local assessments of the impacts of phosphorus index implementation in Pennsylvania. J Soil Water Conserv 61:20–30

    Google Scholar 

  • Kraybill D, Johnson-Weiner K, Nolt S (2013) The Amish. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Lanyon LE, Arrington KE, Abdalla CW, Beegle DB (2006) Phosphorus budgets for Pennsylvania cropland: 1939 to 2002. J Soil Water Conserv 61:51–58

    Google Scholar 

  • Logsdon G (1988) Amish economy. Orien Nat Q 7:22–33

    Google Scholar 

  • Lutz M (2017) Explaining Anabaptist persistence in the market economy: past paradigms and New Institutional Economics Theory. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 5:239–257

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Mogensen L, Kristensen L, Thamsborg S (2005) Productivity, economy, and nutrient balances on organic dairy farms using different types of home-grown concentrated feed for winter feeding. Paper presented at the NJF-Seminar 369. Organic farming for a new millennium—status and future challenges, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences

  • Napier TL, Sommers DG (1994) Correlates of plant nutrient use among Ohio farmers - implications for water-quality initiatives. J Rural Stud 10:159–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nolt S, Meyers TJ (2007) Plain diversity: Amish cultures and identities. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD

    Google Scholar 

  • Nowak P (1987) The adoption of agricultural conservation technologies: economic and diffusion explanations. Rural Sociol 52:208–220

    Google Scholar 

  • Padel S (2002) Conversion to organic milk production: the change process and farmers’ information needs. PhD-Thesis. University of Wales, Aberystwyth

    Google Scholar 

  • Pampel F, van Es JC (1977) Environmental quality and issues of adoption research. Rural Sociol 42:57–71

    Google Scholar 

  • Parker JS (2013) Integrating culture and community into environmental policy: community tradition and farm size in conservation decision making. Agric Human Values 30:159–178. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-012-9392-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parker JS, Moore R, Weaver M (2009) Developing participatory models of watershed management in the Sugar Creek Watershed (Ohio, USA). Water Altern 2:82–100

    Google Scholar 

  • Penn CJ, Bryant RB (2006) Application of phosphorus sorbing materials to streamside cattle loafing areas. J Soil Water Conserv 61:303–310

    Google Scholar 

  • Perry-Hill R, Prokopy L (2015) Improving environmental management on small-scale farms: Perspectives of extension educators and horse farm operators. Environ Manag 55:31–42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-014-0376-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perry-Hill R, Prokopy LS (2014) Comparing different types of rural landowners: Implications for conservation practice adoption. J Soil Water Conserv 69:266–278. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.69.3.266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piñero JC, Quinn J, Byers P, Miller P, Baker T, Trinklein D (2015) Knowledge and use of Integrated Pest Management by underserved producers in Missouri and the role of Extension. J Ext 53 [On-line]. Research in brief. http://www.joe.org/joe/2015june/rb3.php

  • Prokopy LS (2011) Agricultural human dimensions research: The role of qualitative research methods. J Soil Water Conserv 66:9A–12A. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.66.1.9A

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prokopy LS, Floress K, Klotthor-Weinkauf D, Baumgart-Getz A (2008) Determinants of agricultural best management practice adoption: Evidence from the literature. J Soil Water Conserv 63:300–311. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.63.5.300

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prokopy LS, Mullendore N, Brasier K, Floress K (2014) A typology of catalyst events for collaborative watershed management in the United States. Soc Nat Resour 27:1177–1191. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2014.918230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reid J (2015) Old Order Mennonites in New York: cultural and agricultural growth. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 3:212–221

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rogers E (1995) Diffusion of innovations, 4th edn. The Free Press, New York, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Rotz CA, Karsten HD, Weaver RD (2008) Grass-based dairy production provides a viable option for producing organic milk in Pennsylvania. Forage Grazinglands. FG-2008-0212-2001-RS

  • Rust NA et al. (2017) Quantity does not always mean quality: The importance of qualitative social science in conservation research Soc Nat Resour 30:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2017.1333661

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saltiel J, Bauder JW, Palakovich S (1994) Adoption of sustainable agricultural practices - diffusion, farm structure, and profitability. Rural Sociol 59:333–349

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh A, MacGowan B, Ulrich-Schad J, O’Donnell M, Klotz H and Prokopy L (forthcoming) J Soil Water Conserv

  • Sommers DG, Napier TL (1993) Comparison of Amish and Non-Amish farmers—a diffusion farm structure perspective. Rural Sociol 58:130–145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stinner DHP, Stinner MG (1989) In search of traditional farm wisdom for a more sustainable agriculture: a study of Amish farming and society. Agric Ecosyst Environ 27:77–90

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strauss A, Corbin J (1998) Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

    Google Scholar 

  • Trauger A, Sachs C, Barbercheck M, Kiernan NE, Brasier K, Findeis J (2008) Agricultural education: Gender identity and knowledge exchange. J Rural Stud 24:432–439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.03.007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ulrich-Schad JD, Brock C, Prokopy LS (2017) A comparison of awareness, attitudes, and usage of water quality conservation practices between Amish and Non-Amish Farmers. Soc Nat Resour 30:1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2017.1364457

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vanclay F (2004) Social principles for agricultural extension to assist in the promotion of natural resource management. Aust J Exp Agric 44:213–222

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vanclay F, Lawrence G (1994) Farmer rationality and the adoption of environmentally sound practices; A critique of the assumptions of traditional agricultural extension. Eur J Agric Educ Ext 1:59–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/13892249485300061

    Google Scholar 

  • Viera A, Garretr J (2005) Understanding interobserver agreement: The kappa statistic. Fam Med 37:360–363

    Google Scholar 

  • Vonk M (2011) Sustainability and quality of life. A study on the religious worldviews, values, and environmental impact of Amish, Hutterite, Fransiscan and Benedictine Communities. Vrije University, Amsterdam, Holland

    Google Scholar 

  • Welsh E (2002) Dealing with data: Using NVivo in the qualitative data analysis process. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 3

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the participating farmers and the many conservation agents, Extension agents who participated in interviews. We would also like to thank, Rebecca Oliver, for editorial assistance. Some of this research was funded by Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caroline Brock.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brock, C., Ulrich-Schad, J.D. & Prokopy, L. Bridging the Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Public Sector Agricultural Professionals Working with Amish and Mennonite Producers on Conservation. Environmental Management 61, 756–771 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-018-0998-5

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-018-0998-5

Keywords

  • Conservation practices
  • Plain
  • Amish
  • Best management practices
  • Agriculture