Why don’t farmers adopt more ecological practices?
Produce growers are increasingly expected to not only provide safe, healthy, and affordable food to consumers, but to do so in ways that reduce or reverse the deleterious effects of intensive, industrial agricultural practices on the environment. Many on-farm practices that have a positive impact on the environment, such as cover cropping, diverse crop rotations, and non-crop vegetation management, have also been shown to benefit farm productivity. However, relatively few farmers have adopted or consistently used these management practices in the United States despite the financial support available for some of these practices through incentive programs. Consequently, there is a need to rethink the ways in which we are attempting to increase the adoption of agroecological practices.
Our overall project goal is to untangle and more fully understand the complex decision-making that leads to, or does not lead to, adoption and continued use of diversified, agroecological farming practices.
The information growers provide through in-depth interviews and a national survey will allow us to identify the factors that drive or hinder adoption of these practices at multiple scales and across a range of operation types. This information will be useful for the development of programs and incentives that reflect the needs of growers. The Nature Conservancy is participating in this research because it will help the organization identify ways to further support and work with growers who are motivated to implement practices that are environmentally beneficial.
Objective 1. Explore how the interrelated factors that inform farmer perceptions of and experiences with ecological practices influence on-farm management and decision-making among small- to large-scale, organic and non-organic vegetable growers in California and New York. We will contextualize this work within a broader agroecological framework with particular attention given to linkages among the underrepresented cultural, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic dimensions of agroecology. To complete this objective, semi-structured in-depth interviews will be conducted.
Objective 2. Characterize the relationships and patterns of use and adoption, discontinuance, and barriers to adoption for ecological management practices among fruit and vegetable farmers in key agriculture and conservation regions in the United States. This objective will be completed through the analysis of a national survey of fruit and vegetable growers.