Phosphorous, farms, and families: Institutional narratives about agricultural intensification and water quality in northeastern Wisconsin

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Abstract

Institutional narratives are a discursive form of power where people engage in the development and promulgation of narratives that connect descriptions of how institutions work with arguments for particular courses of action. This paper uses the concept of institutional narratives to analyze how the family farm as a social construct is used as a normative mechanism for meaning making around agricultural intensification and rural sprawl. We examined narratives among residents in the lower Fox River and Green Bay Watersheds of Wisconsin surrounding growth and change and the problem of poor water quality, which occurs primarily through excess phosphorous loading, and identified two institutional narratives among stakeholders, each with different framings of key problems related to water quality. The first narrative problematized agricultural intensification and the second problematized rural sprawl, yet both narratives relied on a societal construct of the family farmer as a cornerstone of ideal rural institutions and an indicator of how change ought to occur. Findings demonstrate ways in which notions of idealized rural community life are politicized though narratives that connect rural problems such as water pollution with normative claims about who has the right to inhabit and use rural spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-426
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume80
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Agricultural intensification
  • Community-based natural resource management
  • Environmental studies
  • Institutional analysis
  • Residential sprawl
  • Social construction of rurality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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