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"The Only Thing That Isn't Sustainable ... Is the Farmer": Social Sustainability and the Politics of Class among Pacific Northwest Farmers Engaged in Sustainable Farming


"The Only Thing That Isn't Sustainable ... Is the Farmer": Social Sustainability and the Politics of Class among Pacific Northwest Farmers Engaged in Sustainable Farming



Rural Sociology 76(3): 375-393



ISSN/ISBN: 0036-0112

DOI: 10.1111/j.1549-0831.2011.00051.x

Using interviews and participant observation at Pacific Northwest sustainable farming operations, this article analyzes the complex ways that class privileges and labor practices impact the social sustainability of sustainable agriculture. While the farmers in this study were highly aware of and reflexive about the class politics of sustainable agriculture, they also participated in a classed system that restricts access to sustainable farming as an occupation even as it exploits the labor of the farmer in order to regulate prices. In particular, the farmers in the study benefited from educational privileges and often-lucrative off-farm income, they expressed a desire to make their goods more accessible and affordable even as they marketed their foods to their upper-middle-class consumers, and they used their own idealism as justification to exploit their own difficult labor on the farm. Using a qualitative, ethnographic approach, this research explores the negotiations between farmers' social ideals and the actual practice of sustainable agriculture in a capitalist system.

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Accession: 066248937

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