Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard W. Judd

Second Committee Member

Micah A. Pawling

Third Committee Member

Michael Lang

Additional Committee Members

Nathan Godfried

Samuel R. Cook


By the early 1930s, soil erosion had reached the point of crisis in Appalachia. The legacy of poor farming practices, soil-exhausting crop regimes, and industrial capitalism-induced deforestation could be found in the myriad erosion gullies and barren hillsides throughout the region. Utilizing strip cropping, cover cropping, terracing, soil amendments, permanent pastures, and reforestation initiatives, New Deal reformers from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) launched programs to aid farmers in transitioning to agricultural systems based on sound soil conservation. My dissertation explores how New Deal programs created environmental change in Appalachia and demonstrates how soil conservation efforts shaped modern farmscapes, gardens, pastures, and forests.

Soils serve as an excellent vantage point to better understand landscape change quite literally from the ground up, but I am equally interested in the socio-cultural and political-economic aspects of how agricultural ideas are produced and mediated from “below.” New Deal soil conservation history demonstrates how the co-production of agroecological knowledge between farmers, foresters, and conservation agents could be simultaneously collaborative and contested. Ultimately, the co-production of agroecological knowledge in the context of soils provides important lessons about how this knowledge should be disseminated from and mediated through sense of place, citizen science approaches, community frameworks, local epistemologies, and a holistic understanding of the Appalachian region.