Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Agriculture has been cited as one of the major causes of increasing climate change, and at the same time one of the most vulnerable industries to the effects of climate change. Humorously referred to as the problem of “cow farts,” the impact of agriculture, seems to expand beyond individual control or even conception. Yet farmers conceptualize and address the balance between environmental conservation and food production on a daily basis. This paper compares two different approaches used by farmers to perceive farming in order to develop practices that address the dual goals of production and conservation.
First, large-scale farming across the fields in Iowa have developed the practice of precision farming, which attempts to minimize farm inputs through utilizing GIS technologies in order to evaluate and address small sectors of the fields. This approach draws on a combination of high-tech tractors, GIS maps, aerial photographs, and data charts to perceive ecological variation across their fields and improve conservation decision making while maximizing production. On the other hand, small vegetable farmers in Mississippi contrast themselves with precision farmers by calling their approach “physical farming.” By physical farming, these farmers refer to the practice of knowing their farms through direct sensory observation. These farmers rely on physical engagements with their farms to better understand and make decisions that balance ecological and production needs. Using a combination of observational films, photographs, and GIS graphics, this paper compares how these different conceptualizations of agriculture lead to different forms of knowledge and different farm practices.