The Shifting Landscape of Amish Agriculture: Balancing Tradition and Innovation in an Organic Farming Cooperative
Matt J. Mariola, David L. McConnell
The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio.
In the context of the recent proliferation of alternative operations and marketing schemes across the agricultural landscape, this article examines an Amish organic farming cooperative in northeast Ohio. Contrary to popular perception, the large majority of Amish are not full-time farmers, and those who do farm typically use conventional, chemical-intensive methods. The adoption of certified organic among the Amish is a pragmatic decision that stems from concerns over the sociocultural effects of losing their agrarian heritage, but it also raises challenges that require a careful balance between market imperatives and cultural traditions. We investigate these challenges and the Amish response to them, including: how a culture group largely antithetical to bureaucracy and economic regulation has responded to the demands of external certification standards, how the cooperative has found markets for its products given their reluctance to use the Amish name in advertising, and how a people known for adherence to conservative cultural traditions manages to embrace the alternative nature of organic farming. Our study illustrates the complex ways culture can both facilitate and constrain agricultural innovation.
Keywords: agriculture, Amish, food safety, organic farming, small farms