Environmental Awareness, Economic Orientation, and Farming Practices: A Comparison of Organic and Conventional Farmers

Environ Manage. 1997 Sep;21(5):747-58. doi: 10.1007/s002679900064.


/ This study examines similarities and differences between organic and conventional farmers. We explore the factors that underlie farmers' conservation attitudes and behaviors, including demographic and farm characteristics, awareness of and concern for environmental problems associated with agriculture, economic orientation toward farming, and self-reported conservation practices. A series of intensive personal interviews was conducted with 25 farmers in Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA, using both qualitative and quantitative survey methods. The findings indicate that both groups of farmers share a concern for the economic risks associated with farming, although the organic farmers reported a significantly greater concern for long-term sustainability and a greater willingness to incur present risk to gain future benefits. Organic farmers expressed a greater awareness of and concern for environmental problems associated with agriculture. Organic farmers also scored significantly higher on a multifaceted measure of conservation practices, although both groups had a fairly high adoption rate. Implications of these findings are discussed, relative to economic risks of farming, implications for new farmers, effectiveness of conservation education and government programs, and impact of farm size and crop diversity.KEY WORDS: Environmental attitudes; Conservation behaviors; Organic farming; Agricultural sustainability