Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Taking from interviews with small-scale, community-engaged farmers and farmland conservation practitioners around the state of Maine, this thesis identifies and explores the ways in which farmers are being asked to take responsibility for safeguarding a resource (farmland) upon which many people depend. In recent years in Maine, there has been an astounding effort to conserve farmland. Maine Farmland Trust is a leading actor on this stage, and they have done an incredible job putting thousands of acres of farmland into conservation all over the state. However, in many cases, the responsibility for putting land into conservation falls onto the shoulders of individual farmers (who are aided by organizations like Maine Farmland Trust), even though the benefits of that conservation are distributed widely to the multiple communities that have vested interest in farms and farmland. To clarify this tension around farmland conservation, this thesis first starts with a description of the multiple degrees of community associated with different farms in Maine. This conversation about community unfolds into a larger discussion about commoning. Commoning is generally understood as the specific and intentional social praxis of a community to protect a resource upon which the community depends. A lot of the work being done by the different communities can be seen as limited forms of commoning. However, there are also ways to expand the commoning that is happening around these farms in Maine to help expand community accountability for farmland conservation. The final chapter of this thesis looks to the different ways other communities have tried to accomplish the task of incorporating the many beneficiaries of farmland conservation into the processes of farmland conservation. The conclusion of this thesis acts as a “what if” scenario to hypothesize the possible outcomes of a community-engaged farmland conservation process on Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus, ME. Largely, this project is asking all of us the question, what if people start taking responsibility for the land that grows their food?

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Ethan Miller

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages



Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.