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Friday, September 16, 2011



BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Helene Lawson, professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, presented a paper on “The Hobby Farm” at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Having grown up in an apartment in Chicago, Lawson said that when she came to Pitt-Bradford, she was intrigued by rural life, including farming.

A few years ago, she met a student, Jennifer Sanders, who came from and was marrying into a farm family. The young couple decided to continue farming near their home in Edinboro, Pa., but could not afford to do so full time.

Sanders served as Lawson’s guide as she visited farms and former farms in Erie, McKean and Cattaraugus (N.Y.) counties, interviewing farmers and former farmers.

Lawson said that she found family farms still operated at some level often because of the romance of the farm and how it fulfilled owners’ desires to live a simpler life closer to land and animals.

Lawson found that hobby farmers, or those who have their primary jobs off the farm, have found success providing products to niche markets that satisfy consumers’ desire for healthier food.

The reasons that people leave farming, she found, include economic hardship and exhaustion.

The paper will be archived with the conference proceedings at and will be available for public access.

Lawson is the director of the sociology program at Pitt-Bradford and earned her doctorate in sociology from Loyola University in Chicago. She holds Master of Arts degrees in gerontology and early childhood education from Roosevelt University, where she also earned a Bachelor of Arts in education.

She teaches Introduction to Sociology; Gender, Race and Ethnicity; Images of Men and Women in the Media; Sociology of Work and Society; Global Society; and Inequality.

She lives in Bradford with her husband, Dr. Larry Lawson.

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