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Re-Connecting Lives to the Land: Nurturing a Deep Dialogue in Civic Agriculture

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Title: Re-Connecting Lives to the Land: Nurturing a Deep Dialogue in Civic Agriculture
Reconnecting Lives to the Land: Nurturing a Deep Dialogue in Civic Agriculture
Authors: Hayes-Conroy, Allison Noelle
Advisor: Goss, Jon D.
Keywords: urban agriculture
New Jersey
Burlington County
family farms
community development
show 1 moreAgricultural geography
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Issue Date: May 2005
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2005]
Abstract: The argument for a new kind of 'holistic' community dialogue is simple; many planners and educators increasingly agree that too much of "planning" has been dominated by economic variables. Those who are interested in issues of substantive small-scale democracy, land stewardship, and environmental, economic, and social sustainability have recognized the importance of including issues of identity - of culture, values, emotions, and spirituality in the planning process (Thomashow 2002, and Forester 1999). Community planning understands that as people become more aware of their surroundings and more self-reflective as to how they belong in relation to a community of 'others' they become more likely to engage themselves in civic activities. This community of 'others' can include people as well as the broader 'community' of plants, wildlife, soils, waters, and landscapes (Hannum 1995). In addition, many community planners recognize that the significance of this idea of 'becoming more aware' is a result of the underlying necessity of not simply having "knowledge" of one's homeplace but rather creating a "learning culture" in which the dynamics of attentiveness are fueled by a mutual desire to know and care for the whole of a place (Kauffman 1980). Thus, planners draw out people's thoughts, fears, and desires in regard to their local homeplace in an attempt to not only understand a given situation in 'local' terms but also to create, essentially, a "new social reality through discourse that encourages and supports learning" (Forester 1999, 126). Similarly, I began work in South Jersey by speaking with key regional residents about particular initiatives in Burlington County - classes, workshops, community outreach - but my ultimate goal has not been to assess these as individual projects. Instead, I have attempted to set the stage for continued participatory community negotiation - a public "planning through learning" - that begins with South Jersey residents challenging together what, why, and how they 'know' and 'feel' about their farms, foods, and physical landscapes. I see this "planning through learning" or "learning through planning," as a form of cultural dialectics and identity building that speaks to the situation of agriculture in ways that have the potential to prompt a devotion to 'place'. Hence emerge clear civic potentials: the possibility to promote active, communal land stewardship, attentiveness to development, landscape, and 'community' and a substantive local democracy.
This depiction of my work should make my general research concern quite clear; effectively, the 'problem' I have sought to remedy is the need to identify a planning process a way forward - by which regions like Southern New Jersey can become sensitive to the idea of "wholeness." To begin to address this broader concern, this thesis examines the meanings, possibilities and roles of dialogue-based, cultural-learning techniques. Although this work is of potential relevance to all world regions, and although all regions are in some way agriculturally relevant, I want to stress that my research is particularly designed for regions of so-called western "developed market economies," and for suburban-urban localities that define themselves in relation to farming. This focus is not accidental. It stems from a long line of authors and scholars who have consistently insisted that what is really needed in terms of the management of modern socio-environmental problems are deep shifts in the hegemonic "Western" (corporate/consumer/industrial) world-view that resonates from and within the cultural milieu of these areas (Orr 1992). However, I do not wish to purport that all that is 'western,' industrial, and corporate in such suburban-urban localities is inherently wrong, or anti-ecological, and all that is local, small, and 'alternative' is here inherently sustainable and right. In this thesis I urge for a questioning of all of the values and systems of belief that are normally taken for granted. I offer the idea that a crucial yet much ignored strategy of change is the advancement of a culture of civic engagement that is rooted in the land, but I do not pretend to know exactly what such a culture would include. I explore how local people in suburban South Jersey receive the idea of using dialogue to further the civic potentials of agriculture, and specifically how they envision agriculture as a cultural framework or medium through which to further communal "ecological" thought. The main question of the research is as follows: To what practical extent do South Jersey educators (focusing on higher and community education) find legitimacy with the suggestion that we can use local agriculture as a foundation for deepening our sense of place and stewardship?
Description: MA University of Hawaii at Manoa 2005
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 250–257).
Pages/Duration: vi, 257 leaves, bound ; 29 cm
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/11625
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:M.A. - Geography


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