Old Order Amish; Groffdale Mennonite Conference; agricultural extension; outreach communication; conventional agriculture; government subsidies; trust


This perspective on Penn State Extension Services and plain people is based on my personal experiences as a plain person, in which I interacted with Extension Services first as a farmer, and then (while working on a doctorate) as a part of the Extension system. Penn State Extension started over a century ago and was deliberate in reaching out to plain (conservative Anabaptist) farmers since the beginning, which led to a history of trust-based cooperation. For all these successes there remain challenges to effective cooperation with certain plain individuals and subgroups. I suggest these challenges are broadly similar to those experienced in other cross-cultural interactions, such as those that span broader cultural divides within the United States, and I discuss them within the categories of personal and social, technological, and philosophical differences. In general these differences are less problematic in typical Extension work that is well-defined in scope, such as management of specific insects or diseases, while successful cooperation on more open-ended topics, such as food safety, agricultural runoff, and (especially in the early years) the Extension System itself, relies heavily on trust-based personal relationships that arise from commonalities and mutual understandings that extend beyond the subject matter. More broadly, building on the history of trust-based cooperation, I present a vision of farmers (both plain and non-plain) and the scientific community as collaborators in the production of nutritious and affordable food, with Extension personnel as key communicators in that farming-science interface. [Abstract by author.]


Thank you to my teachers and exemplars who showed me what trust-based cooperation looks like and to the anonymous reviewers whose suggestions greatly improved this manuscript