Publication Date

Fall 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Rachel E. O'Malley


Community, Culture, Farmers, Interviews

Subject Areas

Environmental Studies; Agriculture, General; Sociology


As United States (US) agriculture continues to experience declines in farms and farmers, the organic sector steadily increases in size. Furthermore, survey data show that almost half of the new organic farmers are not conventional farmers who are transitioning to organic, but urban dwellers who have migrated to a new rural setting. Migration theory is used to look at non-economic influences that may be driving these new organic farmers. Through in-depth interviews with 11 organic and conventional small-to-larger strawberry farmers on California's central coast, this study identifies two distinct cultures that now inhabit the agricultural industry of this area. Two differences between these cultures are that organic farmers are less resistant to regulation and are more environmentally aware than conventional farmers. However, both groups share an entrepreneurial spirit and a positive view of community. The findings support urban-rural migration theory that recognizes important non-economic reasons for moving from urban to rural environments.