Special Project Reports
Barriers to the Adoption of Sustainable Agricultural Practices: Working Farmer and Change Agent Perspectives
Robin A. Fazio, Sonrisa Farm, Colquitt , Georgia
Joysee M. Rodriguez Baide and Joseph J. Molnar
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, Auburn University
Conventional agricultural practices, while capable of producing large amounts of food and fiber, frequently result in environmental degradation and socioeconomic losses. These negative aspects of conventional agriculture have led many to promote sustainable agricultural practices. Sustainable practices seek to ensure the future of agriculture by promoting environmental stewardship, generating an acceptable level of income, and maintaining stable farm families and communities (SARE, 2002).
The transformation of agriculture into a more sustainable system requires that farmers adopt sustainable practices. However, the factors that determine whether a farmer will adopt a sustainable practice are unclear. This research project, funded by the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SSARE), sought to identify these determinants of adoption by engaging in three activities: a comprehensive literature review, a survey of change agents, and interviews with farmers who had adopted sustainable practices.
Results from the literature review, the survey, and the interviews revealed multiple determinants of adoption. The most frequently mentioned theme throughout all of the interviews, both in volume and in frequency of responses, was the social aspects of adopting sustainable farming practices. Our report suggests that while adoption of sustainable practices is a highly variable phenomenon that can involve many factors, there are several general determinants that can significantly influence adoption. These determinants are discussed in the context of recommendations to the SSARE program.
Barriers to Adoption of Sustainable Agriculture Topics (Full Report)
Review of SSARE-funded Soil and Water Quality Projects: 1988-2003
Victoria Mundy Bhavsar Alissa Meye Karen P. Mundy and Keiko Tanaka
University of Kentucky Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; University of Kentucky Teaching and Academic Support Center
University of Kentucky Community and Leadership Development
Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
University of Kentucky Community and Leadership Development
This review summarizes knowledge gained from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program's Research and Education projects (R&E) and Graduate Student (GS) projects about soil and water quality in sustainable food and farming systems. The main objective of the review is to collect and organize the results of the SSARE soil and water projects in preparation for SSARE to create a “sustainability toolbox” for the southern region. A further objective is to identify topics that have been fairly well researched and topics that need more work. Suggestions for future SSARE-funded soil and water quality work are made.
Completed projects and ongoing projects with significant available information focusing on soil and water are included in the review. Projects are arranged chronologically within different topics such as Nutrient Cycling, Soil Conservation, etc. The review is presented in two parts following this abbreviated summary. Part I consists of section introductions followed by short abstracts of the main points of each project; Part II includes longer, more detailed summaries and literature citations.
Many projects examined more than one aspect of soil or water quality. Such interactions are mostly separated but cross-referenced in this review. Also, many projects investigated other topics, such as crop management, in conjunction with soil and water management. Non-soil and -water topics are not explored in this review. Such separation is not ideal; SSARE projects almost necessarily consider multiple factors. However, boundaries are necessary to limit this review to a manageable size. Future reviews will cover other topics.
Many if not most soil and water SSARE projects led to further work. This review includes only papers and information directly related to SSARE funding, partly to make the review manageable and partly to reflect SSARE's specific accomplishments more accurately.
For the most part, project findings were not in disagreement with one another even in projects from quite different ecological situations. However, even when general project results were similar, important results concerning management details differed from place to place. One conclusion that can be drawn from the SSARE soil and water projects is that site specific and material specific management is necessary and that very few “one size fits all” answers exist. Even when those answers do exist – e.g., adding organic matter is beneficial to soil – implementation and consequences will vary widely from place to place and farm to farm.
Southern SARE Coordinator Survey: Findings and Recommendations
A. Lee Meyer
S-SARE Land Grant University Liaison Lee Meyer and James Hill serve in liaison roles between the Southern SARE program and Land Grant Universities (LGUs). Meyer focuses on the 1862 Land Grant Universities and extension while Hill focuses on the 1890 LGUs. Meyer is an extension specialist at the University of Kentucky . This paper is based on work done from April – August, 2005.
The Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has state coordinators associated with each of its affiliate land grant universities. In the southern region, there are 14 states/territories. Alabama has three land grant universities and two coordinators at Auburn University . Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have one each. The remaining 11 states each have two coordinators.
Until 2003, the state coordinators' responsibilities were focused on implementing SARE's Professional Development Program (PDP). Since then, their duties have expanded and their new role is as the state (overall) SARE Coordinator, not just the PDP Coordinator. (The document describing the duties of SARE Coordinator is included as Appendix 1 at the end of this document.)
With the changing roles of the coordinators, with a new PDP leadership in place, and in order to provide the support and assistance the SARE Coordinators need to effectively promote SARE and sustainable agriculture, a better understanding of their situations is needed.
Based on a focus group conducted in August, 2005 at the annual So. SARE Coordinators workshop, discussions and site visits, (and a little dose of the obvious), it is clear that each of the 30 coordinators in the Southern SARE region has a different background, works in a different environment and has different levels of support from administrators, colleagues and clientele.
To provide this needed information, a survey was designed to gather background information, establish benchmarks, evaluate support levels (from coordinators own internal/administrative university units to PDP, SAN and SARE materials) and give coordinators a chance to provide input into the overall program as well as practical matters such as the annual conferences.
In addition, several hypotheses are being evaluated. Some include,
- Coordinators vary in level of enthusiasm for sustainable ag. and SARE;
- Terms like “sustainable agriculture” carry baggage with agents and clientele;
- Relationships between 1862 and 1890 LGUs vary;
- Support levels and needs vary tremendously.
This document provides a tabulation of the findings and explores the implications and provides recommendations and data for Southern SARE leadership.
During the spring/summer of 2005, a survey was conducted of SARE coordinators in the Southern Region. A copy of the survey instrument is included as Appendix 2. The survey instrument was drafted, pre-tested and then revised. It was e-mailed to each of the coordinators with a request to respond and schedule a convenient time to actually conduct the survey by telephone. These calls were conducted mostly during April and May, 2005 and took 20 to 45 minutes. Data from 19 of the 30 coordinators are included in this report. Seven of the respondents are from 1890 Land Grant Universities and 12 are from 1862s.
Survey of State Coordinators in 2005 (Full Report)