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Sustainable Agriculture in the SE United States 2003

Sustainable Agriculture in the SE United States:

This is on-going and continuously evolving local research. It is moving at a slow pace, by design, and is thoroughly integrated into my life here in the Southeast. My current interest is in how small-scale, sustainable farmers situate themselves and are situated within (hence, are constrained by) broader trends, including national regulatory policy, economic globalization, anti-globalization movements, and the contemporary political currents of the United States.

Here are some relevant links:

http://www.farmersfreshfood.com/

http://www.cottonmillfarmersmarket.org/

Here is a partial proposal for a project funded in 2003:

A Sense of Place: Agriculture and Community in West Georgia

The farmland in Carroll County and its neighboring counties is rapidly being converted to subdivisions or commercial development. Indeed, the American Farmland Trust has produced a study that ranked Georgia as third among states that have lost prime farmland from 1992-1997 (http://www.farmland.org/). The loss of farmland has been identified as problematic because of the corresponding loss of wildlife habitats, groundwater recharge sites, and ground cover. Several initiatives have been made to manage or counter these trends of rapid land conversion, including 1) green space initiatives for protecting the most ecologically and agriculturally valuable land; 2) comprehensive plans for restricting growth in certain places; 3) conservation easements, involving the sale or unremunerated transference of development rights on a piece of property; and 4) sustainable farming initiatives that aim to make farming more profitable—and even feasible—for another generation of farmers. The latter initiative has perhaps touched the small-scale farmers most strongly and has resulted in the establishment of a Farmer’s Market in Carrollton, which opened in 2002.

While policy and planning efforts have elicited public opinion at key steps along the way of designing land use policies and programs (mostly in formal meetings), there has been little systematic effort at gathering information about the relationship of farmers to their land, farmers’ perceptions of how current initiatives fit into histories of land use, and how different categories of farmers (differentiated by gender, age, ethnicity, length of time farming, geographic location, agricultural product) perceive current changes.

The goal of this project is to examine farmers’ “sense of place (see, for example, Basso 1996), aiming to uncover farmers’ affective, anecdotal, experiential, and intellectual moorings to their land. The study will particularly focus on comparing and contrasting the perspectives of those who self-identify as using sustainable agricultural techniques (with a goal of preserving ecological balance) and those who use conventional techniques (including the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers). This research is expected to contribute to a growing interest in Anthropology, and in environmental studies in general, in exploring how socially differentiated actors define “place” and use space within historical, political, and economic contexts. Of particular interest is the relationship of specific localities to global systems of capital and information flow (see, for example, Tsing 2000). In addition to their academic value, these stories are expected to contribute indirectly to policy discussions by compiling local perspectives as revealed in on-site contexts (i.e. at the farms) and through open-ended interviews.

Basso, Keith. 1996. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. Albuquerque: NM: University of New Mexico Press

Tsing, Anna. 2000. Inside the Economy of Appearances. Public Culture 12(1): 115-144.