Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Anthropology and Environmental Policy


Samuel Hanes

Second Committee Member

Francis Drummond

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Isenhour

Additional Committee Members

Jessica Leahy

Paul Roscoe


This dissertation presents comparative research of diverse agricultural actors involved in lowbush blueberry productions in Maine, USA and Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, in order to explore the factors that influence on-farm pollinator conservation. The research is presented through three distinct projects. In the first project, my collaborators and I ask: how do growers perceive and understand pollination in agricultural systems, and how do growers’ perceptions influence their willingness and ability to enact on-farm bee conservation? Drawing on semi-structured interviews with conventional growers, we present growers’ cultural models of pollination management and pollinator conservation. Our analysis reveals that the messages and recommendations about pollinator conservation put forth by outreach professionals are not always consistent with farmers’ cultural models, creating barriers to the diffusion of pollinator conservation practices. We offer recommendations to increase the efficacy of pollinator conservation outreach and education programs.

In the second project, we ask: what pollination management and pollinator conservation practices are growers using, what social processes are driving the use of these practices, and what are the implications for outreach programs aimed at promoting on-farm pollinator conservation? Our analysis reveals that farmers are not just adopting practices, but also developing and adapting practices in response to complex socialecological change. Moreover, we argue that pollinator conservation requires processes of cooperation, not simply innovation. We conclude with a discussion of how to support processes of adaptation and cooperation through peer-learning and knowledge exchange.

In the third project, we present a narrative of PEI’s contentious honeybee importation policy, which, combined with increasing demand for pollination services, resulted in an artificial and temporary shortage of pollination on the island. We apply the depletion crisis model and explore the questions: how might PEI growers build on the conservation and cooperation that emerged in response to insufficient crop pollination services? How can Maine growers develop pollinator conservation more fully without the trigger of some ‘depletion crisis’ event? We conclude with an examination of the mechanisms by which farmers come to ecological understanding about conservation agriculture.

Taken together, the results presented in this dissertation illuminate the need for a shift within sustainable and conservation agriculture education away from knowledge transfer models and toward knowledge exchange models. Our findings add to a growing body of literature calling for more participatory strategies and multistakeholder partnerships to improve farmer-to-farmer and farmer-to-institution relationships, which are essential for cooperation and collective action toward sustainable agriculture systems.

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