Methodological Considerations for Amish-Focused Opinion Research: Lessons from a Study of Beliefs and Practices about Agriculture and the Environment
Renno Church Amish; Nebraska Church Amish; Big Valley, PA; culturally relevant methods; stewardship
Certain aspects of Amish agriculture have been studied extensively but much is still unknown about Amish environmental attitudes and beliefs. This is due, in part, to the difficulty of directly soliciting responses from adherents. This article—part of a larger study of the Kishacoquillas Valley Amish settlement in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania—reflects on methodological challenges that arose during a study on Amish environmental attitudes and behaviors. Farmers from two Amish groups, as well as two non-Amish groups used for comparison, were interviewed about their environmental attitudes. Recruiting Amish participants for interviews was difficult due to the limited use of modern telecommunications technology, what can be perceived as a general suspicion of non-members, and concerns about possible publicity. Further, the use of standard academic research method protocols and survey instruments proved challenging with the Amish. Administering an academic-level survey to the Amish, a group whose formal schooling generally ends at eighth grade and whose first language is Pennsylvania Dutch, posed challenges for the interviewees’ understanding of certain technical terms and for the interviewer’s interpretation of responses. As the study unfolded, methodological flexibility was necessary to adapt the research to the people. Namely, open-ended questions were added to the formal survey in order to learn more about Amish attitudes about stewardship. These study reflections suggest that researchers should take time to learn about the local context and culture and be flexible in selecting and adapting methodological instruments. [Abstract by author.]
Sincere thanks to the farmers of Kish Valley, especially the Amish, who allowed me to learn more about the trials and triumphs of their vocation.
Hockman-Wert, David. 2021. "Methodological Considerations for Amish-Focused Opinion Research: Lessons from a Study of Beliefs and Practices about Agriculture and the Environment." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 9(2):141-50.
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