USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
US Midwestern farmers are direct actors in managing nitrogen fertilizers and key to remediating water quality problems in agricultural landscapes. As farmers’ relationships with nature offer insights into their decisions and conservation practices, surveys and interviews with farmers in two Illinois watersheds explored their human–nature relationship perspectives and linkages to conservation practices. While domineering “Master” perspectives theorized as a cause of human-induced environmental problems were found, farmers spoke of obligations to the land and closeness to nature, emphasizing ecologically oriented partnership and stewardship ideals as motivating their conservation efforts. However, production-oriented pressures of the agricultural industry and livelihood and humanitarian considerations complicated farmers’ human–nature relationships and limited their efforts to act upon personal perspectives. Multiple, confounded human–nature relationships are influenced by factors beyond local landscapes with implications for natural resource decision-making, conservation practices, and environmental outcomes.