Perceiving Agricultural Impact: A comparison of approaches

Authors: Sarah Franzen*, Louisiana State University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Anthropocene, Cultural Ecology
Keywords: farming systems, precision farming, sustainable agriculture, ecological perception
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agriculture has been cited as one of the major causes of increasing climate change, and one of the most vulnerable industries to the effects of climate change. Humorously referred to as the problem of “cow farts,” the impact of agriculture, seems to expand beyond individual control or even conception. Yet farmers conceptualize and address the balance between environmental conservation and food production on a daily basis. This paper compares two different approaches used by farmers to perceive farming in order to develop practices that address the dual goals of production and conservation.

First, some large-scale farmers in Iowa practice precision farming, which attempts to minimize farm inputs through utilizing GIS technologies in order to evaluate and address small sectors of the fields. This approach draws on a combination of high-tech tractors, GIS maps, aerial photographs, and data charts to perceive ecological variation across their fields and improve conservation decision making while maximizing production. Second, small vegetable farmers in Mississippi contrast themselves with precision farmers by calling their approach “physical farming.” By physical farming, these farmers refer to the practice of knowing their farms through direct sensory observation. These farmers use physical engagements to make decisions that balance ecological and production needs. These different approaches not only shape the practice of farming, but also have socio-economic reverberations that have larger social impacts. Using a combination of observational films, photographs, and GIS graphics, this paper explores what is at stake in how agriculture is perceived.

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