Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

First Advisor

Pearson, John

Second Advisor

Mote, Jonathon


In this study, we argue the organic industry's move towards a more legal definition of organic production indicated a shift in the legitimating criteria in the organic agriculture institutional field, which can be observed through the analysis of the legitimating accounts of various actors. Prior to USDA certification, institutional actors in the organic food field largely relied upon the norms and values of its participants to maintain order. Legitimacy was based on the perception that a firm embodied a certain value set, which typically included opposition to large-scale commercial operations (DeLind, 2000; Drinkwater, 2009). To some, the introduction of federal standards signaled a replacement of the personal trust between consumer and producer, and an increased reliance on external policies mandated by federal certification (Guthman, 2000; 2004a; 2004b). This study explores the intricacies of the various actors' legitimating accounts during this time of a shifting institutional field. Central questions include: how do these actors adapt their legitimating accounts to the changing context? Is there a discernible pattern to their rhetoric, not only over time, but also in relation to the other contemporary legitimating accounts? And finally, if patterns are evident, can they provide insight into the dynamics of legitimating sources in this institutional field?




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