Today I defend my thesis for my Master of Arts degree in philosophy from Colorado State University. The thesis is titled “There is a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm.”

Some readers might recall a book by a similar title from the late 1980s. That would be Gary Comstock’s 1987 book “Is There a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm?” You can read Comstock’s book cover to cover and you won’t really find an answer to the question that he poses in the title. Comstock’s conclusion is ambiguous at best.

The goal in writing my thesis was to offer a contribution to the field of agricultural ethics that sought to establish an unambiguous answer to Comstock’s important question. By 4:00 PM today I should know whether my committee deems my project successful.

For those who might be interested, the brief abstract to my thesis appears below the fold.



While issues of agriculture have seen an increasing amount of attention within academic philosophy in recent years, the issue of our moral obligation to the family farm remains surprisingly underdeveloped. Many people, both inside and outside of philosophy, have an affinity for family farms, but without a clear moral argument for them, the family farm has continued to flounder in recent years.

In an effort to fill this gap I explore how the two live options for agriculture in the United States affect values that we find to be important. The options are either a family farm system of agriculture or an industrial agribusiness system of agriculture. I examine how these two agricultural practices effect individual autonomy, environmental stewardship and community well being. These, along with other moral goods, form the basis of my argument.

In my examination of the two live options for agriculture and their relationship to these moral goods, it is the family farm system of agriculture that emerges as morally superior. Establishing that a moral obligation to promote and preserve family farms does exist has significant implications for the trajectory of our farm and rural policy in this country.

Brian Russell Depew
Department of Philosophy
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Summer 2005

2 Replies to “Thesis”

  1. So, 4:00 came and went and we wonder: Did you pass? We all hope so, and assume so. Congratulations!
    Gary Comstock

  2. Hey Brian – How interesting that your thesis would be this topic. I didn’t realize this. I need to spend more time at this site to keep up with my family!

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