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

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Journal/Book Title

Environmental Management

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Springer New York LLC



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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.

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