Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Science and Mathematics


Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Pankaj Lal

Committee Member

Yang Deng

Committee Member

Neeraj Vedwan

Committee Member

Andrew Smith


Agricultural sustainability is a fundamental requirement for environmental conservation, food production, and food security. In order to achieve agricultural sustainability, it is essential that policies are put in place to support sustainable practices, and that agricultural institutions are provided access supporting knowledge and technology. With this integral support, stakeholders can be better prepared to avoid issues such as eroding biodiversity and environmental quality as well as prepare for the inevitable challenges of climate change. This dissertation investigates the challenges and opportunities involved with the development of the hard apple cider industry in the United States’ Northeast. Hard apple cider is the smallest, but fastest growing sector of the alcoholic beverage industry, showing a great deal of potential to improve rural agricultural economies while supporting the food localization movement that is integral in connecting consumers to the environment. In this study, we use a multi-tiered approach towards addressing multiple aspects of sustainability by acknowledging the needs of various stakeholders residing in the US (United States) Northeast. We explore stakeholder values related to sustainability attributes to better understand the producer-consumer relationship using online surveys for orchard managers and hard apple cider consumers, and take on life cycle and risk assessment analytical techniques to quantify the environmental and socioeconomic impact of the hard apple cider production system. In Chapter 1, we analyze survey data collected from 65 apple orchard owners/managers to explore how their values, beliefs, and norms influence their current management practices and their willingness to implement sustainable management practices through principal component analysis (PCA) and multiple regression analyses. Here, we also explore orchardists’ perceptions of the opportunities and challenges related to the hard apple cider industry. In Chapter 2, we analyze survey data collected from 630 hard apple cider consumers to identify the intrinsic and actual value associated with sustainability attributes attached to hard apple cider using the best-worst choice (BWC) approach, which combines bestworst scaling (BWC) and discrete choice (DC) methods. In Chapter 3, we apply quantify the environmental and economic impact of the hard apple cider production system through life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle cost (LCC) analyses, and explore multiple packaging and distribution scenarios to identify best management practices in terms of sustainability. In Chapter 4, we evaluate the uncertainties associated with the environmental, social, and financial impacts of the hard apple cider production system and identify the associated risk to better inform adaptation and mitigation management strategies. Through these techniques, we offer a comprehensive foundation of knowledge in this little-explored subject which can provide useful information for supporting political and community decision-making, and can be used as a model for ongoing work in this field.

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