Environmental Management

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 756–771 | Cite as

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

  • Caroline Brock
  • Jessica D. Ulrich-Schad
  • Linda Prokopy


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.


Conservation practices Plain Amish Best management practices Agriculture 



We would like to acknowledge the participating farmers and the many conservation agents, Extension agents who participated in interviews. We would also like to thank, Rebecca Oliver, for editorial assistance. Some of this research was funded by Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Agunga R (1997) Developing the third world: a communication approach. Nova Science Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson M (2012) New ecological paradigm (NEP) scale 6. Berkshire Publishing Group, Great Barrington, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakeman R, Gottman JM (1986) Observing interaction: An introduction to sequential analysis. University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbercheck M, Brasier K, Kiernan NE, Sachs C, Trauger A (2014) Use of conservation practices by women farmers in the Northeastern United States. Renew Agric Food Syst 29:65–82. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumgart-Getz A, Prokopy LS, Floress K (2012) Why farmers adopt best management practice in the United States: A meta-analysis of the adoption literature. J Environ Manag 96:17–25. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergefurd B (2011) Assessing extension needs of Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite produce auction farmers. Master’s Thesis. Ohio State University, ColumbusGoogle Scholar
  7. Berry W (1981) Seven Amish farms: In the gift of the good land: Further essays cultural and agricultural. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  8. Blackburn D (1989) Foundations and changing practices in extension. University of Guelph, Guelph, ONGoogle Scholar
  9. Blake K, Cardamone E, Hall S, Harris G, Moore S (1997) Modern Amish farming as ecological agriculture. Soc Nat Resour 10:143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boeni M et al. (2014) Organic matter composition in density fractions of Cerrado Ferralsols as revealed by CPMAS C-13 NMR: Influence of pastureland, cropland and integrated crop-livestock. Agric Ecosyst Environ 190:80–86. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brock C, Barham B (2009) Farm structural change of a different kind: alternative dairy farms in Wisconsin - graziers, organic and Amish. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 24:25–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brock C, Barham B (2015) Amish dedication to farming and adoption of organic dairy systems. In: Freyer B, Bingen J (eds) Re-Thinking organic food and farming in a changing world. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp 233–255. 10.1007/978-94-017-9190-8_12Google Scholar
  13. Brock C, Reschly S (2016) Anabaptist communities. In: Riney-Kehrberg P (ed) The Routledge history of rural America. Routledge Press, Florence, KY, pp 230–242Google Scholar
  14. Cates J (2014) Serving the Amish: A cultural guide for professionals. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MYGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen J (1960) A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educ Psychosoc Meas 20:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cross JA (2014) Continuity and change: Amish dairy farming in Wisconsin over the past decade. Geogr Rev 104:52–70. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cross JA (2015) Change and sustainability issues in America’s Dairyland. Focus on. Geography 58:173–183. Google Scholar
  18. Donnermeyer JF, Anderson C, Cooksey EC (2013) The Amish population: County estimates and settlement patterns. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 1:72–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dunlap R, Van Liere K (1978) The new environmental paradigm: a proposed measuring instrument and preliminary result. J Environ Educ 9:10–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dunlap RE (2008) The new environmental paradigm scale: From marginality to worldwide use. J Environ Educ 40:3–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Franz N, Piercy F, Donaldson J, Richard R, Westbrook J (2010) How farmers learn: Implications for agricultural educators. J Rural Soc Sci 25:37–59Google Scholar
  22. Franzluebbers AJ, Paine LK, Winsten JR, Krome M, Sanderson MA, Ogles K, Thompson D (2012) Well-managed grazing systems: A forgotten hero of conservation. J Soil Water Conserv 67:100A–104A. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gardner W (ed) (1995) On the reliability of sequential data: Measurement meaning and correction. In Gottman JM (ed) The analysis of change. pp 339–359. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  24. Glaser BG, Strauss AL (1967) The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  25. Greenhalgh T, Taylor R (1997) How to read a paper: Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research). BMJ 315:740–743. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hockman-Wert D (1998) The role of religion in motivating sustainability: The case of the Old Order Amish in Kishacoquillas Valley, PA Masters of Art. University of Oregon. MA Thesis, University of OregonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoorman J, Spencer E (2001) Engagement and outreach with Amish audiences. J High Educ Outreach Engagem 7:157–168Google Scholar
  28. Jackson M (1988) Amish agriculture and no-till: the hazards of applying the USLE to unusual farms. J Soil Water Conserv 43:483–486Google Scholar
  29. Javier EQ (1989) Recent approaches in the study and management of the linkages between agricultural research and extension. ISNAR Staff Notes 89–63Google Scholar
  30. Jepsen SD, Mann AD (2015) Efforts to improve roadway safety: A collaborative approach between Amish communities and a professional engineering society. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 3:151–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kline D (2010) Letters from larksong: An Amish naturalist explores his organic farm hardcover. Wooster Book Company, Wooster, OHGoogle Scholar
  32. Kogelmann WJ, Bryant RB, Lin HS, Beegle DB, Weld JL (2006) Local assessments of the impacts of phosphorus index implementation in Pennsylvania. J Soil Water Conserv 61:20–30Google Scholar
  33. Kraybill D, Johnson-Weiner K, Nolt S (2013) The Amish. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MAGoogle Scholar
  34. Lanyon LE, Arrington KE, Abdalla CW, Beegle DB (2006) Phosphorus budgets for Pennsylvania cropland: 1939 to 2002. J Soil Water Conserv 61:51–58Google Scholar
  35. Logsdon G (1988) Amish economy. Orien Nat Q 7:22–33Google Scholar
  36. Lutz M (2017) Explaining Anabaptist persistence in the market economy: past paradigms and New Institutional Economics Theory. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 5:239–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CAGoogle Scholar
  38. Mogensen L, Kristensen L, Thamsborg S (2005) Productivity, economy, and nutrient balances on organic dairy farms using different types of home-grown concentrated feed for winter feeding. Paper presented at the NJF-Seminar 369. Organic farming for a new millennium—status and future challenges, Danish Institute of Agricultural SciencesGoogle Scholar
  39. Napier TL, Sommers DG (1994) Correlates of plant nutrient use among Ohio farmers - implications for water-quality initiatives. J Rural Stud 10:159–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nolt S, Meyers TJ (2007) Plain diversity: Amish cultures and identities. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MDGoogle Scholar
  41. Nowak P (1987) The adoption of agricultural conservation technologies: economic and diffusion explanations. Rural Sociol 52:208–220Google Scholar
  42. Padel S (2002) Conversion to organic milk production: the change process and farmers’ information needs. PhD-Thesis. University of Wales, AberystwythGoogle Scholar
  43. Pampel F, van Es JC (1977) Environmental quality and issues of adoption research. Rural Sociol 42:57–71Google Scholar
  44. Parker JS (2013) Integrating culture and community into environmental policy: community tradition and farm size in conservation decision making. Agric Human Values 30:159–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parker JS, Moore R, Weaver M (2009) Developing participatory models of watershed management in the Sugar Creek Watershed (Ohio, USA). Water Altern 2:82–100Google Scholar
  46. Penn CJ, Bryant RB (2006) Application of phosphorus sorbing materials to streamside cattle loafing areas. J Soil Water Conserv 61:303–310Google Scholar
  47. Perry-Hill R, Prokopy L (2015) Improving environmental management on small-scale farms: Perspectives of extension educators and horse farm operators. Environ Manag 55:31–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Perry-Hill R, Prokopy LS (2014) Comparing different types of rural landowners: Implications for conservation practice adoption. J Soil Water Conserv 69:266–278. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Piñero JC, Quinn J, Byers P, Miller P, Baker T, Trinklein D (2015) Knowledge and use of Integrated Pest Management by underserved producers in Missouri and the role of Extension. J Ext 53 [On-line]. Research in brief. Scholar
  50. Prokopy LS (2011) Agricultural human dimensions research: The role of qualitative research methods. J Soil Water Conserv 66:9A–12A. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Prokopy LS, Floress K, Klotthor-Weinkauf D, Baumgart-Getz A (2008) Determinants of agricultural best management practice adoption: Evidence from the literature. J Soil Water Conserv 63:300–311. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Prokopy LS, Mullendore N, Brasier K, Floress K (2014) A typology of catalyst events for collaborative watershed management in the United States. Soc Nat Resour 27:1177–1191. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reid J (2015) Old Order Mennonites in New York: cultural and agricultural growth. J Amish Plain Anabapt Stud 3:212–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rogers E (1995) Diffusion of innovations, 4th edn. The Free Press, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  55. Rotz CA, Karsten HD, Weaver RD (2008) Grass-based dairy production provides a viable option for producing organic milk in Pennsylvania. Forage Grazinglands. FG-2008-0212-2001-RSGoogle Scholar
  56. Rust NA et al. (2017) Quantity does not always mean quality: The importance of qualitative social science in conservation research Soc Nat Resour 30:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Saltiel J, Bauder JW, Palakovich S (1994) Adoption of sustainable agricultural practices - diffusion, farm structure, and profitability. Rural Sociol 59:333–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Singh A, MacGowan B, Ulrich-Schad J, O’Donnell M, Klotz H and Prokopy L (forthcoming) J Soil Water ConservGoogle Scholar
  59. Sommers DG, Napier TL (1993) Comparison of Amish and Non-Amish farmers—a diffusion farm structure perspective. Rural Sociol 58:130–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stinner DHP, Stinner MG (1989) In search of traditional farm wisdom for a more sustainable agriculture: a study of Amish farming and society. Agric Ecosyst Environ 27:77–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Strauss A, Corbin J (1998) Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  62. Trauger A, Sachs C, Barbercheck M, Kiernan NE, Brasier K, Findeis J (2008) Agricultural education: Gender identity and knowledge exchange. J Rural Stud 24:432–439. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ulrich-Schad JD, Brock C, Prokopy LS (2017) A comparison of awareness, attitudes, and usage of water quality conservation practices between Amish and Non-Amish Farmers. Soc Nat Resour 30:1–15. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vanclay F (2004) Social principles for agricultural extension to assist in the promotion of natural resource management. Aust J Exp Agric 44:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Vanclay F, Lawrence G (1994) Farmer rationality and the adoption of environmentally sound practices; A critique of the assumptions of traditional agricultural extension. Eur J Agric Educ Ext 1:59–90. Google Scholar
  66. Viera A, Garretr J (2005) Understanding interobserver agreement: The kappa statistic. Fam Med 37:360–363Google Scholar
  67. Vonk M (2011) Sustainability and quality of life. A study on the religious worldviews, values, and environmental impact of Amish, Hutterite, Fransiscan and Benedictine Communities. Vrije University, Amsterdam, HollandGoogle Scholar
  68. Welsh E (2002) Dealing with data: Using NVivo in the qualitative data analysis process. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 3Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.230 Gentry Hall, Division of Applied Social SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Sociology and Rural StudiesSouth Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA
  3. 3.Forestry & Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations