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Farmer to non-farmer – The Role of Farmer Identity on Conservation

The trend to multifunctional rural landscapes in developed countries is characterized, in part, by the contrasting values, land uses and land management practices of rural property owners. In agricultural regions, it seems these trends are, at least in part, an expression of the extent rural landowners identify as farmers. Investigation of these trends has been hampered by the absence of robust approaches to measuring occupational identity amongst rural landowners. As the non-farmer cohort of rural landowners’ increases, it is expected that occupational identity will be an increasingly important factor affecting rural landowner adoption of best management practices (BMPs). Initial research suggests a farmer’s identity may be a strong indicator of likelihood of adoption of BMPs in Australia, a country that exhibits several similarities with the U.S. agricultural model. To date, limited research has examined how occupational identity of the spectrum of rural landowners influences land management decisions in the U.S. This project was designed to help address that gap by completing a survey of landholders in four counties, in Iowa (Pocahontas and Wright counties) and in Ohio (Henry and Paulding counties). Mail surveys were sent to a sample of 4,000 landowning residents in each location who owned more than 40 acres. The survey included general demographic items, support and behaviors relating to best management practices (e.g. filter strips, crop rotation, nutrient management, grass waterways), knowledge items, relationship to tenant farmer (if applicable), and a measure of the extent that participants identify as farmers (Farmer-Collective Occupational Identity Construct - F-COIC). Results from the survey will be presented and discussed.

Presented by Eric Toman, The Ohio State University

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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