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Publication Date

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Rachel O'Malley


Agriculture, California, Interviews, Organic, Photovoltaics, Solar

Subject Areas

Environmental studies; Alternative energy; Agriculture


Organic farmers who have adopted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate electricity are leaders in agricultural energy sustainability, yet research on their culture and motivations is largely incomplete. These farmers share economic and logistical constraints, but they may differ in their underlying worldviews. To better understand what motivates San Francisco Bay Area organic farmers to install solar PV systems, 14 in-depth interviews and short surveys were conducted and included a "frontier mentality" rubric. Additionally, nine online surveys were administered. In this study's sample, financial concerns turned out to provide the greatest motivation for farmers to adopt solar PV. Concern for the environment followed closely. Among farms that did not have solar, the overwhelming prohibiting factor was upfront cost. Climate change was not cited directly as a driving force for adoption of solar PV by any of the participants. A wide range of differences among organic farmers existed in environmental attitudes. This reflected the diversity of views held by organic farmers in California today. For example, certified organic farmers had less strongly held environmental values than did those that eschew third-party certification in favor of a trust-based connection to the consumer. Understanding this group of highly involved environmental players provides insight into environmental behavior of other farmers as well as broader categories of consumers and businesses.