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Rebecca Elaine Berkey is a 2014 graduate of the PhD Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England.

Below : Dr. Berkey with her Dissertation Committee

Left to Right :

Dr. Steve Chase (Committee Member), Dr. Tania Schusler (Committee Chair), Dr. Rebecca Berkey, Dr. Joseph Siry (Committee Member)

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

This mixed methods study builds upon literature and research in environmental justice, public participation, and community development to examine how justice-related issues impact farmers and workers on organic farms in the Northeastern United States. It also examines how involvement in a grassroots organization helps farmers and workers address these issues. At the core of the study is an exploration of environmental justice and its applications at a broad, systemic level; an examination of the current context of laborers in organic agriculture in the Northeast; and finally an investigation of the effects of grassroots organizing within the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) as it intersects with notions of justice. It offers promising recommendations for addressing the systemic injustices that are encountered on organic farms. The first phase of this study comprised an online survey sent out to all NOFA member farmers to gather information about who the laborers on organic farms in the NOFA network are and about the unique justice issues they face. The results of the survey indicate that most of the farms within the network are small-scale and rely heavily on family members and volunteers for labor. Farmer participants identified challenges encountered in enacting their justice-related values. The second phase consisted of phenomenological interviews with farmers and workers from three different member farms known within NOFA for a commitment to justice to discover patterns of meaning around justice and the contributions of network membership to its realization. This study expands the scale of justice considerations beyond the local and considers theories of justice beyond utilitarianism that incorporate elements of participation, recognition, and capabilities. It also offers an understanding of the broader systemic context within which small-scale organic farmers make their commitments and decisions, and it illustrates how the justice-related experiences of both farmers and workers are affected by membership in a regional organization, providing insight into the impact of democratic participation, coalition-building, and community development in practice at that scale. The electronic version of this dissertation is available in the open-access Ohiolink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd and on the Antioch University Repository & Archive, http://aura.antioch.edu/.

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Dr. Becca Berkey is the Director of Service-Learning at Northeastern University's Center of Community Service, where she has been since February 2013. Previously, she served as the Coordinator of Experiential Education in the Center for Engagement, Learning, and Teaching at Keene State College. She has also served as a Course Director for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida and worked at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida facilitating leadership education and development initiatives on campus both in the curriculum and the co-curriculum. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Butler University, and a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Miami University.

Becca's research is at the intersection of leadership, change, and environmental justice with a specific interest in the justice issues facing farmworkers, and she is an active member of the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative. In addition, she was published in a 2012 anthology on Environmental Leadership compiled by scholars at Duke University, a chapter entitled Environmental Justice from the Ground-Up. She has served as an Instructor and Academic Dean for the Civic Leadership Institute and as a Site Director for two Civic Week programs (for Northwestern University), and believes wholeheartedly in all things related to positive social change. In her free time, she loves running and being active, spending time with her husband, Jonathan and stepson, Kaiman and trying new restaurants.

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