The Object of extension: Agricultural education and authentic farmers in Pennsylvania

Amy Trauger, Carolyn Sachs, Mary Barbercheck, Nancy Ellen Kiernan, Kathy Brasier, Audrey Schwartzberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Cooperative extension, as an outreach mechanism of land grant universities in the USA, has long served the educational needs of rural and agricultural communities. The educational programming of extension, however, is generally divided into areas that reflect, reify and reinforce the gendered division of labour on farms in the USA. While it is well documented that extension inadequately serves women in providing knowledge about production practices in contemporary agriculture, the mechanisms by which women's access to knowledge is hindered are not well understood. Using Freire's ideas about authentic educational subjects we explore the social construction of authentic farming and educational programming in the cooperative extension system. Using interviews with extension educators at a large land grant university, this article describe how extension educators identify certain types of farmers and farming as authentic, while certain types of farms are seen as inauthentic. This belief feeds into the institutional discourse that the educational opportunities offered by extension are appropriate for all audiences of authentic farmers. We conclude by offering insights into how cooperative extension can reorient its programming toward the emerging cultural economies of agriculture in rural communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-103
Number of pages19
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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