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.
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)
Evaluating Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Producer and On-Farm Research Grant Programs
2011 Survey Results from Grant Recipients Reflecting on Their Grant Experience
Producers introduced to sustainable agriculture practices and technologies through a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant are likely to change their farming behavior, according to the results of a Southern SARE survey. In addition, the grantees share their experiences with fellow farmers who, as a result, tend to test or adopt the idea, approach or technology.
Such information points to the positive impacts of the SARE program in encouraging research and education and increasing knowledge and extending information about sustainable agriculture production systems.
The survey, “Evaluating Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Producer and On-Farm Research Grant Programs,” was designed to allow grant recipients to reflect on their experiences. Southern SARE worked collaboratively with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) to conduct the regional assessment of the two grant programs.
Southern SARE grantees of the Producer Grant Program and the On-Farm Research Grant Program, who received grants between 2004 and 2008, were asked to reflect on project implementation and outcomes to assess the impacts and reach of their project. Out of 97 eligible respondents, 74 percent completed the survey.
The following are some of the survey results:
- Conducting field day tours, presentations, or workshops was a big component of the outreach efforts of the grantees.
- Across both grant programs, over 10,000 individuals learned about the project through a farm tour or presentation at a workshop or conference. In addition, the grantees visited with over 800 farmers and ranchers individually regarding their project.
- The implementation of sustainable ag practices had a positive impact on the farm or ranch operation. Producer and on-farm research grantees indicated or observed:
- A decrease in fertilizer, fuel, pesticide, weed control and/or seed costs.
- A decrease in hired labor, management, machinery, equipment, and/or on-farm processing costs.
- An increase in yields, production per unit, marketing, and/or sales.
- Improved environmental conditions related to soil erosion, soil quality, air quality, water quality, and/or quality of wildlife habitat.
- An increase in net farm income as a result of the project.
- Grantees made changes in their farming approach as a result of participating in a grant program. These changes included seeking more information on the use of the technology tested, obtaining new markets for crops or livestock, expanding the use of an approach or technology, or adding a new enterprise.
- The implementation of sustainable agriculture practices and technologies produced a more favorable outlook in agriculture. Seventy-two percent of producer grantees indicated that their “satisfaction with farming” had increased. In addition, the positive influence increased the likelihood that farmers would try a new approach that might be financially or environmentally beneficial to their farming operation. Most importantly, the majority of both grantee groups indicated that the idea, approach or technology continues to be used.
- Securing a Southern SARE grant was the impetus for pursuing an idea, approach or sustainable ag technology, and 90 percent of the producer grantees and 100 percent of the on-farm research grantees indicated they would consider seeking another grant from Southern SARE. Additionally, grantees indicated they would recommend the Southern SARE program to others.
In addition to grants, having access to SARE publications is an important aspect of implementing sustainable ag practices and technologies.
Nearly half of producer and on-farm grantees sought more information from the resources listed in a SARE publication. Nearly half of Producer grantees have been inspired by a SARE publication to explore new production or marketing ideas, and over half of On-Farm Research grantees have passed a SARE publication on to others.
The full survey report and results can be downloaded here.