Re-Diversifying the Heartland: Investigating the Dynamics of Midwestern Farmer Identity and Agroecological Transformation
The environmental impact of industrialized agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt, compounded by the effects of climate change, has raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of current farming practices. To strengthen the resilience of the U.S. food system, restore degraded ecosystems, and revitalize rural communities, it is imperative to explore alternative agricultural systems. In my dissertation, I investigated the potential of transitioning to agroecological farming systems on a large scale in Illinois. Through interviews with a group of Illinois farmers, I identified the core values and norms that define a "good farmer" among this population. Additionally, I analyzed over six decades of advertisements in a major farming publication to uncover the discourses promoted by agribusiness about what constitutes a "good farmer." Finally, I proposed a new conceptual framework that addresses the current obstacles to an agroecological transition.