Changing the Way America Farms traces the manner in which alternative farmers have developed and exchanged their own personal, local knowledge as a basis for moving toward an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just. Neva Hassanein studies the patterns of local and regional networks in Wisconsin that sprang up to disseminate new and viable agricultural methods. She argues that these networks have in many ways become the foundation of the sustainable agriculture movement.
Hassanein focuses on two organizations: the Ocooch Grazers Network, a group of dairy farmers who practice intensive rotational grazing, and the Wisconsin Women’s Sustainable Farming Network. The different lived experiences of particular members in each group shaped the ways local knowledge was generated and exchanged.
Hassanein considers the broader implications of this kind of local-level, collective activity centered around the creation and exchange of agricultural knowledge. In rejecting the all-knowing expertise characteristic of scientific reports and extension services, network members instead created heterogeneous systems based on the exchange of information among a community of farming practitioners. These informal networks do not completely reject agricultural science, but they do suggest ways of democratizing knowledge production for sustainable agriculture.
Neva Hassanein has a doctorate in environmental studies and is currently teaching in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana.
"Readable, sympathetic, but objective, the study emphasizes positive aspects of sustainability without fully addressing its role in contemporary agriculture. An excellent bibliography focusing on the social rather than the technical aspects of sustainable agriculture complements the history of the movement."—Choice
"A strong contribution to the available literature on cooperative farmer groups . . . The author describes with eloquence the challenges faced by farmers who do not subscribe to the current conventional industrial agriculture paradigm and their difficulty in finding recommendations for improving their systems.”—Charles A. Francis, coeditor of Crop Improvement for Sustainable Agriculture
"Those into organic gardening will be thrilled with the positive news Changing the Way America Farms . . . has to offer. . . . [Hassanein] documents how the alternative farmers share their knowledge and experiences. In the process, they’ve replaced the traditional hierarchy with a more democratic one."—Suite101.com