Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Jessica D Ulrich-Schad


entrepreneurs, Farm diversification, identity, producers, sustainability, wind-farm


Studies have been conducted in the last three decades to examine the impact of the ongoing economic changes that encourage farmers to adopt nonconventional practices (such as crop diversification, on-farm recreation, and wind farming) to diversify their income. Limited research, however, has been conducted to examine the impact of on farm diversification practices on farmers’ identity as farmers (growers of food, feed, and fiber) including their role, self-conception, and family history/legacy. Using social identity and socio-ecological systems theories, this study seeks to understand how farmers construct their identity, the symbolic meanings they attach to their daily practices, and the influence of their interactions with the social and biophysical environment around them amidst their decisions to diversify. Qualitative in-depth interviews with 41 South Dakota farmers were conducted between January and April 2019, 11 interviews with farmers who diversified into wind farming and 30 with those who have engaged in other types of on-farm diversification. I find that on-farm diversification farmers feel they are forced to not only adopt on-farm diversification, but that they also need to work off-farm in order to be able to remain in farming. Overall, I find that diversifying does not substantially impact the identity of farmers as farmers. In fact, diversification often allows farmers to remain in farming and thus maintain a farmer identity. Younger farmers do tend to focus less on the cultural and social value of their farming practices than older ones. Diversifying also seems to contribute to the weakening of some relationships between farmers and their neighbors through which they share information on new practices and provide social and emotional support to each other. The findings also show that the way farmers got into farming determines both their adoption of on-farm diversification and whether a more traditional farmer identity is important to them. Furthermore, I find that that wind farm diversification impacts farmers’ identity as farmers more than nonwind farm diversification practices. This study provides three practical implications. First, the growing tensions between diversifiers and their neighbors that might affect information sharing and relationships between farmers calls for researchers’ attention. Second, wind farm diversifiers frequently use wind farm tax revenues to increase the acceptance of wind farm opponents, but recent state regulation to remove these funds and distribute them to all counties or districts across the state has the potential to impact future adoption or support of wind farms in counties where these funds are withdrawn or not available. Third, concern among farmers regarding not only the cost of health insurance but also the lack of companies that provide health coverage in rural areas and the impacts this has on farm businesses, needs further attention by both policymakers and researchers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Farmers -- South Dakota.
Wind power plants -- South Dakota.
Agricultural diversification -- South Dakota.
Identity (Psychology)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright