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Local food systems bridge the political divide, help conservation

Environmentalists trying to implement greener community farming practices sometimes face tension and obstacles due to differing opinions on how much conservation should be prioritized.

First-time farmers and traditional family farmers may disagree on everything from the best sustainable practices to religious ideologies, and bridging the gap between these two types of farmers might seem like an impossible task.

But research led by Ruth Stamper, a doctoral candidate from the University of Kansas, shows promising tactics that could help mediate this divide, produce sustainable local agriculture, and foster stronger community engagement.

Stamper talked to farmers in Missouri and Kansas about working to create sustainable local agriculture and found it be a powerful meditative tool within the farming community.

The farmers she spoke to voiced a common goal of wanting to create or enhance sustainable local food systems and this helped bring together farmers with differing views.

“They were coming together to build these local food networks, to educate and produce consumers for their products. They shared practices and how they were educating themselves, creating this space where they are building relationships that haven’t necessarily developed before,” said Stamper.

Religious differences were found to be one of the biggest dividers within local farming communities, as long time family farmers were surveyed as holding conservative Christian values and seemingly leery of neighboring farmers who presented themselves as progressive environmentalists or members of the LGBT community.

“The local farmers all have the same kind of end goal in mind, even though they were coming from two different ideologies,” said Stamper.

Because local community efforts to produce sustainable agricultural practices are an important part of combating climate change, finding ways to bridge ideological disparities will be key in creating greener communities.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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