Moving beyond production: community narratives for good farming

John Strauser, William P. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With a vast majority of the land in the Driftless Region of the Midwestern United States dedicated to agricultural production, the future of farming has significant economic, social, recreational, agricultural, and ecological implications. An important literature stream has developed on ways agriculture can change to impact both human and ecological communities positively. In this study, we examine the processes and extent to which community narratives assert and inform regional identities that shape the meaning of being a good farmer. Using a mixed methods approach, we examine what farmers consider good farming and how they utilize community narratives to assert their perspective of good farming. Employing a correlational analysis, we examined the relative importance of the four dimensions of good farming (productivist, conservationist, civic-minded, and naturalist). In addition, we used narrative analysis to explore the development of community narratives that assert a multi-dimensional view of good farming. Data for this study was collected through 21 semi-structured interviews with farmers, two focus groups of farmers, and a survey of farmers with 82 survey participants. The mean scores for conservationist, civic-minded, and naturalist dimensions were significantly higher than those for productivists. There was no significant correlation between the productivists dimension and the three other dimensions of good farming. Through analysis of transcripts, we identified a community narrative that actively problematized a dominant cultural narrative centered on production agriculture. Collectively, a community narrative is emerging in the Driftless Region that sought to normalize agricultural practices that promote profitable farms, vibrant communities, and a wide array of ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
StateE-pub ahead of print - Feb 14 2024


  • Agroecology
  • Community Narratives
  • Learning Hubs
  • Regenerative Agriculture
  • Regional Place-Making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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