Sustainability of What? Recognizing the Diverse Values that Sustainable Agriculture Works to Sustain

Environmental Values 25 (2):195-214 (2016)
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The contours of sustainable systems are defined according to communities’ goals and values. As researchers shift from sustainability-in-the-abstract to sustainability-as-a-concrete-research-challenge, democratic deliberation is essential for ensuring that communities determine what systems ought to be sustained. Discourse analysis of dialogue with Michigan direct marketing farmers suggests eight sustainability values – economic efficiency, community connectedness, stewardship, justice, ecologism, self-reliance, preservationism and health – which informed the practices of these farmers. Whereas common heuristics of sustainability suggest values can be pursued harmoniously, we discuss how this typology reflects the more intricate project of balancing values in tension with one another.
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