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‘Slow to change’: Farmers’ perceptions of place-based barriers to sustainable agriculture



Smallholder farmers are an important and growing segment of the farm population in Indiana and in the USA. Past research regarding farmer decision-making has been inconsistent and has largely focused on the larger-scale, conventional farmer, leaving smallholders poorly understood. There is a need to better understand the management decisions of smallholder farmers within their regional context to promote efforts toward environmental, social and economic sustainability. Through in-depth qualitative inquiry, this study investigated the impact of regional factors that influence farmers’ decisions and the barriers and opportunities most relevant to farm viability and sustainability in the context of East Central Indiana (ECI). Semi-structured interviews with 15 key informants and 33 farmers informed our understanding of the factors most relevant to small-scale farming in the region. Several important themes emerged related to perceived barriers to sustainable farm management, including markets; structures and regulations; time and labor; environmental/ecological factors; and networking and access to educational support. The results of this study complement the findings of previous work that describe the complex framework farmers navigate when making decisions on the farm. Further, subtle regional factors emerged that significantly impact farmers’ decisions, emphasizing the importance of local context in crafting agricultural policies and outreach efforts. Implications and recommendations for ECI are discussed.
Slow to change: Farmersperceptions
of place-based barriers to
sustainable agriculture
Samantha Grover*and Joshua Gruver
Ball State University, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, USA.
*Corresponding author:
Accepted 9 November 2016 Research Paper
Smallholder farmers are an important and growing segment of the farm population in Indiana and in the USA. Past
research regarding farmer decision-making has been inconsistent and has largely focused on the larger-scale, conven-
tional farmer, leaving smallholders poorly understood. There is a need to better understand the management decisions
of smallholder farmers within their regional context to promote efforts toward environmental, social and economic sus-
tainability. Through in-depth qualitative inquiry, this study investigated the impact of regional factors that inuence
farmersdecisions and the barriers and opportunities most relevant to farm viability and sustainability in the context
of East Central Indiana (ECI). Semi-structured interviews with 15 key informants and 33 farmers informed our under-
standing of the factors most relevant to small-scale farming in the region. Several important themes emerged related to
perceived barriers to sustainable farm management, including markets; structures and regulations; time and labor; envir-
onmental/ecological factors; and networking and access to educational support. The results of this study complement
the ndings of previous work that describe the complex framework farmers navigate when making decisions on the
farm. Further, subtle regional factors emerged that signicantly impact farmersdecisions, emphasizing the importance
of local context in crafting agricultural policies and outreach efforts. Implications and recommendations for ECI are
Key words: farmer attitudes, qualitative methods, small farms, place-based, stewardship
Small-scale, diversied farms are an important and
growing segment of the U.S. farming population. Not
only are they critical stewards of our natural resources,
but small farms also compose an important part of the
social fabric of rural America by contributing to culture
and tradition through promoting self-empowerment and
community responsibility; providing places for families to
pass on values of hard work and responsibility; and provid-
ing a human connection to food and the earth (NCSF,
1998). The denition of a small farm has been somewhat
ambiguous throughout the literature. Small farms have
been dened by terms such as land acreages operated,
number of livestock units, value of farm output, farm
assets, and farm income (Lewis 1978 in Gebremedhin
and Christy, 1996, p. 59). In 2013, the USDA-ARS
released a more concise classication system for small
farms to provide better longitudinal comparison. While
the authorssynthesis of past research reects ndings
across denitions, selection methods for this research
align more closely with the latter, including an additional
focus on local food production (see Methods section).
Although practicing agriculture at a small scale does not
ensure that sustainable practices are used, small farms in
general are more likely to practice and promote sustainable
agricultural practices than large farms (DSouza and
Ikerd, 1996; Tavernier and Tolomeo, 2004). Nonetheless,
agricultural research and subsidy payments have tradition-
ally been devoted to increasing yields and the needs of
larger-scale, conventional production agriculture rather
than rewarding small family farms and sustainable prac-
tices (Tilman et al., 2002; Riedl, 2007).
Agricultural practices of the last 60 years have generally
resulted in signicant environmental degradation, includ-
ing loss of biodiversity, marginalized water quality (fresh
and salt water), and loss of ecosystem services (Tilman
et al., 2002). These impacts and peoplesresponse to
them vary regionallyand are very much dependent on miti-
gating factors such as regional economics, environmental
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: Page 1 of 13 doi:10.1017/S1742170516000442
©Cambridge University Press 2017
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factors (e.g., terrain and soil type) and social factors
(Sassenrath et al., 2010). Community characteristics such
as links to marketing channels (and whether these are
regional or more global in nature); community support
and knowledge of farming systems and the commitment
to local economy; and connections and accessibility to
internal and external change agents (i.e., scientists, policy
makers, educators, etc.) all impact how different areas of
the country practice agriculture and respond to the risks
and rewards that chosen practices bring (Gliessman,
2010; Sassenrath et al., 2010).
Managing agricultural lands sustainably over the next
50 years will ideally result in increased societal benets
including: higher crop yields; greater efciencies in
water, nitrogen and phosphorous use; management prac-
tices that are ecologically and sociologically mindful; the
sensible use of pesticides and herbicides; and signicant
changes in livestock production (Tilman et al., 2002).
Deciencies in the existing literature highlight the need
for more research that preserves important contextual
factors and allows for direct application by regional agri-
cultural professionals. The authors of this study believe
that there is insufcient understanding of the factors
that inuence decision-making on small, diversied
family farms, especially within specic regional contexts.
Because each region holds unique characteristics that
may impact the local food system, solutions must be
grounded in place-based research within the community
of concern.
Achieving a paradigmatic shift in the way agriculture is
done will require, among other things, that farmers are
appropriately rewarded for the work they do, particularly
if they are using sustainable agricultural practices (Tilman
et al., 2002). Recognizing there is a delicate balance of
practicality, economics, social drivers and environmental
factors that shape the management decisions farmers
make, this research seeks to explore the question of
what it means to be a smallholder farmer in East
Central Indiana (ECI). Through in-depth qualitative
inquiry, this study more specically investigates the fol-
lowing questions in the context of ECI: What are the
factors farmers consider when making decisions about
sustainability on their farm? What are the barriers and
opportunities in regard to sustainable management on
small farms? What is the importance of regional context
in farming decisions?
Past research focusing on farmersmanagement deci-
sions is useful in providing guidelines for future research,
but it is limited in signicant ways. Several studies (Gould
et al., 1989; Westra and Olson, 1997; Soule et al., 2000;
Farmer and Betz, 2016) have attempted to link demo-
graphic and farm variables with conservation decisions,
but there has been little, if any strong agreement in
results (Knowler and Bradshaw, 2007; Prokopy et al.,
2008). Although uncovering these quantitative relation-
ships could make targeting programs more efcient,
few if any variables have accurately predicted farm
management behavior despite decades of research.
Others have investigated the more in-depth motivational
and attitudinal aspects of farmer decision-making
(Salamon et al., 1997; Petrzelka et al., 1996; Sassenrath
et al., 2010). While these studies provide critical insight
and have built a strong framework for understanding
farmerscomplex decision-making processes, they do
not fully address the personal and nuanced decision-
making processes that inhibit or motivate farmers
actions. The authors of this study hope to gain insight
into the situational and contextual details informing man-
agement behaviors by engaging in extensive on-farm
interviews with small-scale farmers about the challenges
or barriers in ECI that keep them from maintaining the
long-term viability of their farmsand how those bar-
riers may be more or less pronounced due to regional
socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors.
Currently, there is a groundswell of interest in ECI in
promoting small-scale, diversied agriculture. In 2012, a
feasibility study was commissioned with a goal to
expand the marketplace for Indiana-raised and Indiana-
consumed food (Aubrey, 2012). Among other things, the
study predicted that the market size in Central Indiana
is not only large enough to accommodate more specialty
crop producers, but that most of the anticipated growth in
the specialty crops sector (i.e., fruits and vegetables, tree
nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops
including oriculture) (USDA NASS, 2012) will come
from farms of less than 200 acres. This is even more
likely considering that rising costs of land, equipment
and buildings have created signicant barriers to entry
for larger-scale conventional agriculture (Ahearn et al.,
2005). Consequently, the number of small, diversied
farms is expected to increase. Overall, there seems to be
a desire in Indiana to grow more farmers,but there is
also an inclination that some of the critical infrastructure
(communication and distribution networks, processing
facilities, educational resources) needed to support this
growth may be lacking in the state (Meter, 2012). A better
understanding of producersdecision-making processes
will not only allow for a more efcient allocation of
support resources, but will also provide insight into the
relevant drivers for sustainable management in ECI and
in places with similar regional characteristics in the
USA. The results of this study are not intended to gener-
alize the views of ECI farmers, but rather, to enhance
understanding of the context-specic factors that shape
intention and behavior among smallholder farmers
toward engaging in sustainable management practices.
What influences management decisions on
the farm?
Farmer motivations, attitudes and perceptions, although
complex and somewhat difcult to measure, are import-
ant drivers of farmer decision-making (Alonge and
Martin, 1995). Several studies have explored farmers
2 S. Grover and J. Gruver
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motivations for choosing whether to adopt sustainable
management practices, with varying results (Ryan et al.,
2003; Chouinard et al., 2008; Sassenrath et al., 2010).
Farmers describe gaining personal benet from independ-
ence, working outside and being close to nature, acting as
stewards for the environment, and interacting with the
community, among other things as important motivators
to farm and choose sustainable methods (Ahnström et al.,
2009). In other research, family factors such as tradition
of innovation (Salamon et al., 1997) and identication
of an heir (Inwood and Sharp, 2012) were found relevant.
Still, although farming is often described as a lifestyle
choicebased on non-economic factors, it is also a busi-
ness, and thus cannot be separated from economic moti-
vations and the need to make a living. That is, although
farmers may be motivated by a sense of stewardship,
adopting conservation measures is also a business deci-
sion, so must be practical and cost-effective to the
farmers operation to be successful (Hoag et al., 2012).
Overall, motivational studies stress that farmers balance
a number of factors when trying to achieve good prac-
tice(as dened by each individual) on their farms
(Lemon and Park, 1993; Karami and Keshavarz, 2010).
Attitudinal research provides further insight into
farmersbehavior. Farmers are more likely to adopt sus-
tainable management practices if they have a positive atti-
tude toward stewardship and the environment (Lynne
et al., 1988; Sullivan et al., 1996; Prokopy et al., 2008),
if they value the off-farm benets of conservation prac-
tices (Reimer et al., 2012) and if they have favorable atti-
tudes toward the community (Petrzelka et al., 1996).
Conversely, farmers may be less likely to adopt sustain-
able management practices if they have favorable attitudes
toward economic rationality and conventional farming
methods (Petrzelka et al., 1996), and if they have stronger
beliefs in technology (Lynne et al., 1988). However, atti-
tudes by themselves do not necessarily predict behavior;
attitudes are simply a predisposition to act in a given
way (Karami and Keshavarz, 2010; Heberlein, 2012).
Even if farmers have positive environmental attitudes, in
order to actually adopt an environmental behavior they
must also be aware of the practice, believe it is feasible,
and nd it consistent with their goals (Pannell, 1999).
There is also strong evidence that external factors such
as social, economic and geographic circumstances shape
the regional conditions that help to determine what type
of farming systems will arise. Comparing drivers for
adoption of sustainable systems in the Northeast versus
Southeast USA, Sassenrath et al. (2010) showed that
despite having similar motivations, key regional factors
impacted farmersability to adopt sustainable systems.
In the Northeast, farmers were more inclined to adopt
more localized and diverse systems because local market-
ing channels were well developed, as opposed to global
marketing channels which were more prominent in the
Southeast. Market conditions such as price levels, con-
sumer willingness-to-pay, transportation and supply
chain transaction costs, labor markets, local agricultural
policy and proximity to urban areas (Mishra et al.,
2002) are all regionally specic factors that can work to
induce or deter farmers from adopting more diversied
systems (Bowman and Zilberman, 2013). Farmersdeci-
sions are both limited and augmented by such political,
economic, social and ecological contextual factors
(Duram, 2000), supporting the notion that the broader
community signicantly impacts the type of agricultural
systems adopted. Therefore, barriers to the adoption of
sustainable systems must be understood within the
specic community context (Karami and Keshavarz,
Theoretical framework
Socialpsychological theory suggests that behavioral
intention is not only informed by attitudes, but also by
the interactions among values, beliefs and subjective
norms (Fishbein and Azjen 1975; Heberlein, 2012).
According to the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) pio-
neered by Fishbein and Ajzen (1975), beliefs toward an
outcome, evaluation of an outcome, beliefs of what
others might think, what experts think and motivations
to conformall inform attitudes and subjective norms,
which in turn inuence intentions and behaviors. Still,
there is evidence that physical and social situational
context can play a signicant role in driving behavior
(Heberlein, 2012). External factors have indirect bearing
on attitudes and subjective norms by modifying the struc-
ture of a persons beliefs (Davis et al., 1989). Karami
and Kesharvarzs(2010) framework of farmer behavior
depicts attitudes as bound partly by gender norms
and inuenced heavily by religion and spiritual values,
access to information, attitudes of nearby reference
groups, quality of life and personal characteristics.
Similarly, a model produced by Ahnström et al. (2009)
describes farmer attitudes and perceptions as being
inuenced by nature, agri-environmental schemes, sub-
jective norm attitudes and, perhaps most importantly,
the context box(Ahnström et al., 2009). Farmers, the
authors argue, shape their perspectives and attitudes
based on the way they perceive the context in which
they operate. Factors such as education, economics,
extension, farm history and the existence of farm heirs
make up the context box and act not only upon the
farmer directly, but also affect the larger norm attitudes
and the way agri-environmental schemes are designed.
In this way, situational and social constraints serve as
thresholds for attitudes. Strong attitudes can overcome
these thresholds, while weak attitudes tend not to. This
may help explain that although two farmers could have
nearly identical environmental attitudes, they may
choose to act differently in accordance with their farm
structure, management style, individual circumstances
and cultural norms in the surrounding community. The
fault in most studies is that they often fail to account
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for the multitude of factors that inuence attitudes
(Reimer et al., 2012), and do not adequately recognize
the importance of location and individual farmer circum-
stances in shaping attitudes and behaviors (Ahnström
et al., 2009). Though not empirically testing TRA, the
framework guides research questions in this study to
address noticeable gaps in the smallholder farming litera-
ture that fail to speak toward factors such as individual
circumstances, regional culture, physical location, local
economy and historical land-use context. This research
seeks to understand which factors bound within the
community context of ECI are most important in
shaping the decisions of small farmers contributing to
local food systems.
Study region
In the eight-county ECI region (see Fig. 1), most farms
(71% or 3716 farms) report annual sales of less than US
$100,000. Nearly 70% of all farms have fewer than
180 acres, and most farms (88%) are owned by families
or individuals (USDA NASS, 2012). The top crop items
produced by acreage are by far corn for grain and soy-
beans for beans. However, a diverse range of other com-
modities is also produced in the region with notable
market values, such as milk and dairy products; vegeta-
bles, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes; grains, oilseeds,
dry beans and dry peas; sheep, goats and their products;
and fruit, nuts and berries (USDA NASS, 2012).
This study employed qualitative research methods to
gain a deeper understanding of how farmers perceive situ-
ational circumstances as inuencing their motivations
and management practices. The study counties were
chosen based on geographic proximity to Muncie,
Indiana, the center and largest urban area in ECI, as
well as the center of the ECI business development unit.
Fifteen key informant (KI) interviews were conducted
to build an understanding of the regional context and to
gain initial access to the population. KIs were selected
based on their positions in communities/organizations
or by their locally described reputations as knowing a
lot about smallholder farming in ECI (Elmendorf and
Luloff, 2001). The pool included professionals from
Extension, state and county farm and natural resource
agencies, market masters and identied leaders among
local farmers. Discussions focused on regional cultural
characteristics and farming history, challenges often dis-
cussed with farmers and availability of educational and
other types of resources. KIs identied potential intervie-
wees based on their knowledge of the farmerseligibility
and willingness to participate in an interview. This
method of chain referral (Biernacki and Waldorf, 1981)
was also used to draw on farmersknowledge of add-
itional participants in order to collect a range of perspec-
tives to best understand and represent the study region. In
order to conduct the KI and producer interviews,
researchers sought and received IRB (Institutional
Review Board) approval.
Farms were selected based on the following criteria,
which are modied from the USDA denition for low-
sales, small family farm:(a) farm controls fewer than
260 acres of land; (b) a majority of farmland is oper-
ator-owned; (c) ownership structure for the farm is indi-
vidual or family-owned (related by blood, marriage or
adoption); (d) annual farm revenues do not exceed US
$150,000; and (e) a signicant portion of the farms
output is dedicated to crop or animal products, or both,
destined for direct sales to consumers or local food
markets (e.g., u-pick operations, farm stands, farmers
markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),
local groceries or auctions). These criteria were meant
to reect current and predicted trends among smallholder
farmers in the USA, and also include a focus on locally
marketed food production.
Data were collected through in-depth, face-to-face inter-
views with farmers from all eight study counties in May
Figure 1. ECI study region included the following counties:
Delaware, Blackford, Jay, Randolph, Wayne, Henry, Madison,
4 S. Grover and J. Gruver
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through September 2012. Participant selection was purpos-
ive so as to maximize the diversity of stories and experiences
represented by small-scale farmers in the ECI region. Every
attempt was made to achieve a diversity of farmer experi-
ences, farm types, farm sizes and geographic characteristics.
Based on standards set by previous qualitative research in
the agricultural eld (Duram, 2000; Reimer et al., 2012;
Zwickle et al., 2012) 33 interviews were conducted with
farmers, until saturation was reached. A semi-structured
format was used to maintain objectivity while allowing
the researcher exibility to explore topic areas further as
they became relevant. Following the emergent nature of
qualitative research, interview questions were adjusted as
themes began to arise in the research identifying the most
salient topics related to small-scale diversied farming in
ECI. Interviews were audio-recorded and/or documented
with detailed notes by the researcher and lasted between 1
and 4 hours. At the end of the interview, farmers were
asked to complete a short demographic questionnaire to
provide additional background and contextual information.
Content analysis was used to code transcripts accord-
ing to individual units of meaning in the data. Codes
were then organized into relevant themes, which identied
commonalities across interviews. Prior to data collection,
the researcher disclosed potential biases by drafting a list
of preconceived ideas about the culture of the study region
based on time spent living and working in ECI. A second-
ary coder conrmed themes that arose from the data and
peer debrieng was used to provide a second or third per-
spective. Thick description and direct quotations accom-
pany the analysis to illustrate the themes.
The results of this research are associated with a larger
study examining the relationship between soil manage-
ment and social characteristics of farmers. Farmers were
asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their percep-
tions and management techniques in regard to soil, and
soil samples were taken at each farm. Results from that
aspect of the study are beyond the scope of this paper
and will not be discussed in this text, but are available in
Grover (2013).
KIs provided regional context and informed questions
drafted on the interview protocol. Because producer mar-
keting challenges were a prominent theme KIs identied,
specic questions in the interview protocol were directed
to further explore these issues; and in fact, marketing
became an exceedingly relevant topic throughout the
farmer interviews. A related topic that became prominent
was KIsviews of the farming culture in ECI. Several
speculated that ECIs history of the tradition and domin-
ance of conventional agriculture may have stied the
growth of the small farm/local food movement compared
with other areas in the state. While informants did not say
precisely why ECI has been slower to adopt a local foods
model than other areas in the state, several theories arose
related to geography, economics and the ubiquitous pres-
ence of conventional agriculture in ECI compared with
other regions.
KIsattention to the polarization in farm sizes that has
occurred in ECI is testament to the continuing dominance
conventional production has on the regional farming
culture. Aspects of farming culture became signicant
throughout the farmer interviews, particularly as related
to ecological concerns and educational needs. These
issues will be further discussed in the sections that
follow. A full account of the KI interviews is available
in Grover (2013).
Farmer interviews: markets
Markets were by far the most prominent topic farmers
discussed regarding challenges in maintaining long-term
farm viability. Farmers perceived a low level of awareness
about local foods among consumers in ECI, although
most said awareness had grown in recent years. Several
were convinced that most people dont know what
good food is,noting changes in consumer preferences
toward convenience foods. They perceived a particularly
low willingness-to-pay on the part of consumers in ECI
compared with other areas in Indiana, as well as a lack
of understanding of locally based agriculture and the
cost and processes associated with farming and food pro-
duction. Several farmers in this study traveled to markets
in the greater Indianapolis area, although somewhat
regretfully. Farmers noted that the market was much
larger in those areas and customers in the metro seemed
to have greater appreciation for local foods compared
with ECI. Farmers linked this willingness-to-pay to
higher levels of education and income, but in some
cases, to a different mindset in more urban areas.
The community here is just notit doesnt have that mental-
ity. I dont know if they were just broke or what, but they just
wanted to get something for nothing.
While producers felt somewhat satised with the prices
they received for their products, many felt that the
strength of the market affected what they could produce.
Several farmers, for instance, had an interest in switching
to more organic or naturalpractices, but did not think
enough customers would be willing to pay an extra
premium. Many farmers also felt that they could not
raise their prices to account for increases in production
costs over the years because of competition from big
box stores and consumer expectations for low prices.
Farmers often pointed to larger-scale economic forces
as affecting the market for their products. Many men-
tioned the economic recession in the USA, although it
was viewed to have both positive and negative effects on
the market for local products. Farmers linked consumers
low willingness-to-pay to job losses and lowered incomes
over the last several years, especially noting the decline
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of manufacturing industries in ECI. At the time data were
collected, ECIs unemployment rate was higher than
national and state averages (BLS, 2012; USDA ERS,
2012), at 9.7% compared with 8.3% in Indiana and 8.1%
nationwide. Over the period from 2006 (prior to the
Great Recession) to 2012, median income in ECI counties
remained fairly stagnant, although real(CPI ination-
adjusted) median income fell by about 13% (BLS, 2012).
Manufacturing jobs were negatively impacted over the
same period. Statewide, manufacturing jobs declined by
17.3%; in the Muncie metropolitan area (the only geo-
graphic subset available), losses in the industry were as
high as 41.6% (BLS, 2012).
Farmers were also attuned to the issue of market com-
petition. In addition to discussing price competition from
big box stores, many farmers also readily described com-
petition with other local producers; although, farmers
seemed to have differing denitions of what it means to
compete with one another. Some saw their consumer
base as being limited to a small geographic range, or to
a particular type of consumer, whereas others felt that
anyone nearby growing similar products constituted
The biggest challenge for me farming here has been to grow
something that does very well, and that everybody else
Other farmers say, Well, I dont know how you can sell it
at that price.And its like, well, I dont compete with you. I
dont live on your side of town. We dont compete with other
vendors, and we dont compete with the grocery stores.
A number of producers mentioned the increasing presence
of Amish populations in the small farming community
over the last decade (Amish farmers were interviewed as
well). Non-Amish farmers seemed to have a general
respect for the Amish way of life and the quality of
Amish produced products, but expressed concerns with
market competition.
The Amish are going to be real competitors for anyone else
because they are working hard at ittheyre doing all the
information gathering and research. And I wish them well,
but I cant compete with them in price.
Farmers were further concerned about competition from
non-growers(particularly those who sold products
through farmers markets). According to farmers, some
market vendors purchase food at lower prices from
Amish-run produce auctions (one auction opened just
outside ECI in 2004, and another within ECI in 2007).
Reportedly, some of these vendors resell auction-bought
produce at farmers markets or roadside stands with
little or no indication to consumers of where the food
came from. Several farmers openly described contention
with these non-growers.
Its not so much an open conict as it is kind of a seething
wound [laughs]. Its something that those of us that grow
our own are very proud.
Some farmers seemed to view this practice as an issue of
deception. They were indignant when comparing their
own labor and investment spent in bringing their products
to market to their non-growercounterparts.
Every time they go and sell something they bought, they
dont put no work into, we bring stuff homeItsa
farmers market. If you arent growing it, youre not a
farmer. Thats false advertisement, thats cheating.
Still, there was a range of acceptance for this type of
market competition. While some were adamantly in
favor of a grower-only model, others felt it was acceptable
to engage in some resale, as long as vendors primarily pro-
duced their own goods. In fact, some producers engaged
in resale as a way to supplement their own products to
offer more to consumers, to increase their prot
margins, and/or to have a source of backup income in
the event of a crop loss; they felt it was simply another
outlet to diversify the sale of their product and an import-
ant way to ensure a more stable income.
Another market-based issue was farmersindication
that supply chain costs for organic production are particu-
larly high in the area. Since there is not a well-developed
organic sector in ECI, they said, it is difcult to access
the inputs needed for organic production (e.g., fertilizers,
feeds and approved pesticides), making the cost of
organic production too high for many to justify.
Producers cited that Indiana, and ECI in particular, has
been slower than many other areas to embrace the local
and organic food movement and believed that supply infra-
structure had not developed accordingly for that reason.
Structures and regulations
Almost every farmer mentioned regulatory issues at
some point during the interview. Many felt that small
farmers were overburdened by excessive or inappropri-
ate regulations at the federal and state level. For the
most part, farmers felt that policies were enacted with
large-scale operations in mind, feeling that many regu-
lations were inappropriate to their scale, making the
compliance process onerousboth time and cost pro-
hibitive. Farmers also felt disadvantaged by govern-
ment subsidy structures that favored large-scale
production, noting that the system encourages cheap
food, making it harder for small farmers to compete.
Several felt that government got in the wayof what
they needed to do to be successful in operating and
growing their farm.
I dont like government intervention at all(speaking of
health regulations) Its a one size ts all rule that just
simply doesntt me, and it wouldntt anybody else
doing what Im doing…’
Many farmers expressed concern over predicted changes
in health and safety regulations. Farmers worried that
any increase in certication or regulatory costs would
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hurt their already slim prot margins. Farmers also felt
impeded by disjointed regulations at the more local
level. Several mentioned that health requirements varied
from county to county, and even market to market,
making the selling process confusing and time consuming.
Although a majority of the farmers viewed government
regulations as a barrier, there were some exceptions.
Several mentioned taking advantage of recent grant
opportunities such as USDA high tunnel grants, or
other incentive programs. Most were apathetic to regula-
tions requiring training for pesticide and fertilizer applica-
tion. A few suggested that government could sometimes
be an asset.
Theres a lot of folks that live in this area, they dont want the
government involved at all. But the government will give you
money if you work within their guidelines. And they know
what theyre talking about.
Time and labor
Nearly all farmers mentioned time, or lack thereof, as a
constraint on their operations. Many worked full-time
jobs on top of farming and struggled with expanding
their operations or implementing new practices. While
some aspired to leave their off-farm job to farm full-
time, several farmers viewed what they do as a lifestyle
choice that must be supported by an off-farm income.
Yet, time was limited even for the full-time farmer.
Many talked about challenges in becoming more
efcient with all of their resources, but especially with
their time. Those who farmed full-time often described
struggling with being able to get everything done.
Although general farm work was often discussed,
several farmers also particularly noted struggles in
nding the time to market products adequately or to
learn about and set up new marketing avenues.
I wish I had more time to focus on marketing, because with
both of us working full-time outside of the farm, theres just
not enough hours in the day. I think if I could dedicate some
more time to it, wed see the changes and progress that we
want to see sooner.
Farmers also discussed time in a more long-term sense.
Many felt limited in what they could do with their oper-
ation because of their age, talking about the ways they
might change their operation, if they were younger(a
number of farmers did not begin selling extensively from
their farm until retirement age). Many noted that the
work is too hard to continue doing at the same rate as
the body ages. Several farmers struggled with hiring
labor to help ease their time constraints. For many, the
cost of labor was too high to justify at their scale.
Others struggled with being able to nd workers who
were able to do the work to their standards and stay
long enough to become skilled at the job. Many farmers
felt not only that kids dont know how to work
anymore,but some also worried that people in general
may not have as much interest in farming as they used to.
Environmental/ecological factors
Farmers identied the biggest positive aspects about
farming in ECI to be the good soils and climate for
growing crops (and, in fact, were hard pressed to come
up with anything else that was particularly positive
about the farming region). Yet, farmers also felt that
much of the land in the area was tiredfrom conventional
agriculture practices. Many criticized or commented on
the non-use of crop rotations as an example of the
lacking agricultural diversity in the region. Several dis-
cussed struggles with maintaining and/or improving soil
fertility, especially producers who were farming land for-
merly in conventional production.
The land was in really poor shape when we got it, and its
taking a long time to build the ground back up. We realize
it took a long time for it to get that way and it will probably
take a long time to build it back up, but we would like for it to
happen faster.
Several farmers also mentioned issues related to chemical
drift as a challenge for growing organically. A few noted
that even if they wanted to certify their farm organically,
it would not be possible because of their proximity to
other conventional farms.
Networking and access to educational
Farmers generally felt that their educational needs were
underserved. Resources such as Extension, they said, typ-
ically favored conventional farming. They especially felt
that there was not enough information for growing horti-
cultural crops in ECI soils and climate region, expressing
frustration in seeking information online or from
Extension, and only being able to nd information
catered to faraway places. Several felt that traditional edu-
cational resources were lagging in ECI.
When you read and you go to conventions, you realize
Indiana is really far behind in the fruit and vegetable business.
Even your extension agents dont seem to be real proactive.
Maybe theres not enough fruit and vegetable growers here?
So you cant really fault them, but I just wish we could
have a little bit more sometimes.
Some were frustrated with the available educational
resources because they were overly academic,feeling
that educators did not have adequate hands-on training,
or did not make enough site visits to understand
farmerssituations. While some farmers felt positive
about the support they received from educational agen-
cies, many preferred learning from other farmers, or at
least from those with hands-on experience.
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Theyve got the degree, but they havent got the common
sense knowledge. You can write a cookbook, but that
doesnt mean you can cook.
Farmers often described learning from and receiving
support from other farmers. Many found valuable rela-
tionships at various state or regional conferences.
I think organizations where the members are willing to share
informationthose kinds of things are vital for a small
farmer, especially a person thats trying to do it as an individ-
ual. Its kind of like your little mini support group.
At the same time, farmers seem to be disconnected from
each other in the local ECI region. Few were able to
describe many others in ECI who were doing similar
things as them, and often farmers were only able to iden-
tify others farmers who attended their same market.
One farmer illustrated the relative rarity of his type of
operation in the area by the abnormalnature of his prac-
tices compared to peers.
Ive been known to go to the dark sideorganic fruits and
vegetablesIm doing strange stuffwhich, for around
here, strange means I try very hard to do no sprays or
Some farmers perceived that there simply were not very
many similar producers in the area, while others gured
that there were similar farmers were around, but they
just were not acquainted. One farmer mentioned her dis-
appointment at the lack of a strong communal feeling
among small farmers in the area.
I feel incredibly isolated here. I know there a couple other
people in our county, probably, but there arent many small
farms that are doing non-conventional farming.
Most farmers were open to the idea of a more forma-
lized network for small farmers in ECI, although they
expressed several concerns. The biggest concern was
timefarmers worried that the benets would not be
worth the cost of time that could be better spent on
the farm. Still, some had reservations because they
were skeptical about the expertise of other farmers in
such a group.
Sometimes I get information from other farmers, but thats
kind of like, take it with a grain of salt because you dont
always know what theyre really telling you.
On one hand, farmers found the knowledge gained from
each other as an important resource. Several supported
the idea of collaborating to share ideas and resources.
Yet, several farmers thought there might be a limit to
the degree that farmers in the area would be willing to
cooperate to share resources and information.
Not everyones going to be your best bud, but the people who
are reasonable and open hook up. Theres people around here
that are very competitive and secretive and guarding them-
selves all the time. I try to exercise my faith in those
matters and realize that therell be plenty for me.
Farmers in this study identied a number of barriers
similar to those experienced by farmers nationwide.
However, as predicted, some aspects were more pro-
nounced and/or more specic to regional context of
ECI, suggesting the need for more localized attention in
the formation of initiatives aimed to promote local food
production and consumption. In this study, as throughout
the literature (Gebremedhin and Christy, 1996; Eastwood
et al., 2004; Hall et al., 2006; Cantor and Strohlic, 2009),
market conditions were found to be a signicant limiter
on farmersability to sustain and grow their operations.
Still, the specicinuencing factors farmers described in
ECI merit further consideration.
For instance, farmersstruggle in receiving adequate
prices for their product is consistent with other ndings
that describe barriers related to competition from big
box stores, consumersgeneral lack of understanding
and trends related willingness-to-pay for food on a
national scale (Thilmany et al., 2008; Martinez et al.,
2010). However, farmerssuggestion that ECI consumers
have an especially low willingness-to-pay for local pro-
ducts compared with other nearby locations because of
income and education may suggest a regionally pro-
nounced barrier related to economic development consist-
ent with county-level census data. At the time of data
collection, ECI counties had some of the highest
poverty levels in the state at 18.6%, compared with
15.5% in Indiana and 15.9% nationwide. Educational
attainment for adults 25 and older for completion of a
bachelorsdegreeorhigherover20102014 was only
17.1% in ECI, compared with 23.6% statewide and 29.4%
nationally (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013;2014). This nding
may lend some support to the suggestion by Délier et al.
(2003) that a vibrant rural economy may be necessary to
support small-scale farms and not vice versa. Of course, it
is possible that ECI consumers have a lower willingness-
to-pay for other reasons. Although consumer attitudes are
beyond the scope of this study, consumer education helps
to drive marketing (Sassenrath et al., 2010) and thus may
be an important part of the solution.
Farmersperceptions of market competition as a chal-
lenge was not surprising given the results of past research
(Lawless, 1999; Cantor and Strohlic, 2009), but subtleties
that emerged from this study shed light on cultural and
political issues specic to ECI that may shape regional
conditions. In particular, farmers perceived demographic
changes over the last decade including inuxes of Amish
populations settling in ECI as having inuenced both
the farming culture and markets in the region in unique
ways. While Amish populations are challenging to quan-
tify and track, data available suggests that Indiana has the
third highest Amish population in the USA, with an esti-
mated 45,144 adherents in 2010 (Grammich et al., 2012),
over half of which are located in ECI counties. Data also
suggest that major gains (50% or more) and/or new
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settlements occurred in ECI from 2000 to 2010
(Grammich et al., 2012). Produce auctions largely oper-
ated and utilized by Amish farmers launched in the
decade prior to study created a new market mechanism
for growers and have built linkages with farmers
markets. Yet, they have also introduced new types of com-
petition, illustrated by the conicts farmers described
between growersand non-growers.These conicts
seem to be largely the result of inconsistent market rules
and enforcement and the absence of state regulations gov-
erning sales at farmers markets. While a grower only
market structure would likely be supported by some, it
is also worth considering that non-growersalso sell pro-
ducts grown in ECI, helping to support other farmers and
keep food dollars in the local economy. Still, the conict
between these groups is signicant and creates a social
barrier to cooperation among those working toward a
more localized food system. Future policy governing
farmersmarket sales, then, should focus on requiring
more transparency in the sale of local products both to
foster cooperation between producers and to provide
better consumer information. While we cannot be sure
whether these types of issues in regard to market compe-
tition are specic to ECI, they are likely to be more preva-
lent in states such as Indiana that do not have statewide
regulations governing resale at farmers markets.
Parallels related to the cultural mix of the region may
also exist in other areas where non Euro-American popu-
lations engaging in small-scale agriculture have developed
a strong market presence. Evidence from ECI suggests
that because of differences in regional demographics,
solutions to address market concerns should be inclusive
and crafted with sensitivity to cultural dynamics and pro-
ducer relationships (Koontz and Johnson, 2004).
This research also demonstrates the important role
subjective norms play in how likely local food systems
are to develop and succeed. Consistent with the history
Meter (2012) provided, farmers in this study held the
opinion that the organic and local food movement has
been slower to develop in ECI than in other areas of
the country and other areas in Indiana. Farmers as well
as KIs linked this effect not only to demographic and eco-
nomic conditions, but also to geography and land-use
history. According to interviewees, high-quality soils
and at terrain in ECI promoted the use of large-scale
equipment for conventional production in the region
compared with other areas in the state where other
models prevailed due to tradition and geographic condi-
tions. As a result, the prolonged presence and dominance
of conventional agriculture in ECI has had a strong
inuence on subjective norms in the region for what
types of agriculture are viewed as deviant. Because the
use of alternative practices is perceived to be less well
developed in ECI, farmers may feel social pressure to
conform to the conventional mode of production, as evi-
denced by statements of how strangefarmers felt their
use of organic or alternative practices was in the area or
by the irritation some expressed toward not being con-
sidered a farmerbecause of the size and nature of their
operation. In this way, the regional setting may present
additional social barriers to the adoption of more sus-
tainable practices in ECI. The increased pressure to
conform to subjective norms may make it more difcult
for farmers to engage in alternative methods of produc-
tion in other areas throughout the Great Plains, which
is also supported in previous research (Duram, 2000).
Of course, practical implications of the tradition and
land-use history in the region also include restrictions
on farmersability to choose organic practices because
of the proximity to conventional producers and the lack
of local food systems infrastructure in the region.
Indiana as a whole imports approximately 90% of its
food. This importing behaviorhas gifted the state
great efciencies for shipping food long distances, but
few efciencies for local food trade (Meter, 2012). Since
this was not a comparative study, however, it is difcult
to gauge the extent of this challenge compared with
other areas in the state. Future research should explore
the extent of support for the local food movement
between ECI and more (supposedly) progressive areas
of the state in terms of both farmer attitudes as well as
supporting infrastructures available. The nding that
this challenge seems to be more pronounced in regions
where culture has favored conventional agriculture
implies that a blanket solution may not be appropriate.
Given farmersperceptions of consumer attitudes in
ECI, as well as the difculties many farmers described
in terms of effectively marketing their products, add-
itional support may be needed to help farmers expand
their markets and speed the development of the local
food economy. One model that may be effective is the cre-
ation of a regional food hub which could offer infrastruc-
tural support to producers, increase market access for
purchasers, and serve as a conduit for information ow
and sharing (Hardy et al., 2006;Barhametal.,2012).
Engaging local institutions (e.g., universities, hospitals
and other major employers) in the regional food
economy could offer a way forward.
The nding of structures and regulations as a barrier is
similar to results found by other researchers (Duram,
2000); in this study and in past research, farmers consist-
ently seemed to feel that regulations at the federal and
state level were not scale-appropriate to their operations.
If a more robustly developed local food system is
desired, more opportunities such as small producer
grants, which farmers discussed in a positive manner,
should be encouraged, while policies giving favoritism
to conventional production should be discouraged.
Regulations could also be revised toward more of a
sliding-scale approach to account for the scale and diver-
sity of farms and the needs of small businesses. The
Tester-Hagan Amendment in the recent Food Safety
Modernization Act (FSMA) is one example of how this
might be implemented. In an effort to provide more
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scale-appropriate oversight for food safety, the amend-
ment exempts small producers who sell within a 275-
mile radius of their farm from complying with stringent
record-keeping and plan-making requirements otherwise
required through FSMA but maintains practical require-
ments that maintain product traceability. Still, more
careful work is needed to reduce regulatory barriers that
are impractical for small producers while maintaining
food safety and integrity.
Time and labor are related to economies of scale, so
given that this study focused on small-scale farmers, it
was unsurprising to nd these as barriers. Time and
labor are common constraints found in others studies
and are recognized by the USDA as barriers for farmers
involved in local food production (Martinez et al., 2010;
Sassenrath et al., 2010; Zwickle et al., 2012). Several
farmers specically mentioned time constraints in
regard to marketing (e.g., not having enough time to
market properly or to expand their markets as they
would like to), so it seems that the lack of time can have
reinforcing negative effects. Potential solutions in this
regard could include offering additional marketing educa-
tion for farmers, and/or encouraging the formation of
cooperative marketing systems that would help farmers
share marketing burdens.
Some of the related issues farmers discussed with
regard to labor are also worth noting in more detail.
Farmerschallenges nding good labor and their views
that people just arent interested in agriculture
anymoremust be addressed if we desire to maintain
and grow the farming population. The suspected decline
in skill and interest in farming is troubling. Steps should
be taken to promote farming as a viable and desirable
career, along with other actions to improve the markets
and protability of small-scale farming. Initiatives such
as the USDAs beginning farmer program should con-
tinue to be implemented, and hopefully will help to
encourage farmers to begin operations at a younger age
to alleviate some of the challenges many farmers experi-
ence related to their age and health. Continued invest-
ment in programs like 4-H and FFA that encourage
children to develop interests and skills in agriculture
will be vital.
The main ecological factors farmers described, soil
productivity and chemical drift, are challenges identied
by organic farmers on a national scale (Hanson et al.,
2004; Pimentel et al., 2005) and are likely to continue to
be a problem in future years. Still, chemical drift is par-
ticularly detrimental to small-scale farmers because
small properties do not allow for as large of a land
buffer between adjacent elds where chemicals are used.
The problem may be further exacerbated in areas such
as ECI where organic practice is viewed as culturally
deviant because neighboring farms may be less amenable
to working with small farmers to adjust their practices.
Although voluntary programs such as DriftWatch are
benecial, additional enforcement and legal implications
for chemical drift may be necessary to alleviate barriers
for small farmers.
Farmersviews that area resources disproportionately
favor conventional agriculture were somewhat expected
given the pervasiveness of commodity crop production
in the region and the focus of previous research on
larger scale farms. The nding that farmers often found
local resources to be overly academicand that many pre-
ferred learning from those with rst-hand experience was
also consistent with previous work (Franz et al., 2010).
Convincing research extolls the benets of farmer-to-
farmer networks in strengthening local food markets,
building community, facilitating the transfer of informa-
tion and innovation, and building impetus needed to
make change (Fisk et al., 2000;Kroma,2006). Still,
farmers in ECI may have reservations about engaging in
a collaborative network. Aside from their general feelings
of isolation or disconnection from other farmers, some
viewed the market as being small and were wary of devel-
oping relationships with other farmers for fear of
increased competition. It is possible that such protective
attitudes may inhibit some small farmers from collaborat-
ing with one another to expand the market. The skepti-
cism some expressed about the expertise of other
farmers may also be signicant. It is difcult to say
whether the apprehension to collaborate is unique to
ECI without further study, but the relative absence of
cooperatives and farmer networks in the area compared
to some other regions may offer some indication. Future
research exploring the conditions that promote cooper-
ation among small farmers may help agricultural profes-
sionals and farmers better understand how to promote
collaboration in areas where cooperative attitudes may
be lacking. Moving forward, ECI farmers may need to
be encouraged to form more trusting relationships with
other farmers. In a practical sense, educational efforts
could focus on on-farm eld days specically geared
toward small-scale, diversied farmers. By engaging in
common, honest experiences that are locally relevant,
farmers gain shared knowledge that helps to form a col-
lective identity, which is more likely to lead to trusting
relationships (Carolan, 2006; Franz et al., 2010). An
example of this was highlighted in Blesh and Wolfs
(2014) work in Iowa where farmers were encouraged to
participate in in-eld testing and trials on their farms.
The practice became a key piece of change in the region
because it promoted socialization among farmers and
helped to develop a cultural norm of experimentation.
As farmers gain and develop commonalities, they may
be more amenable to trusting one another and forming
a more cohesive and formalized social network. From
an educational perspective, it is important to note that
since trust develops in part from common interest,
topics for outreach must encapsulate the unique needs
of the growers/farmers.
10 S. Grover and J. Gruver
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Summary and Recommendations
This analysis provides evidence that regional contextual
factors, and the physical and social realities that develop
as a result, play a substantial role in the success of small-
holder operations. While ECI farmers share barriers
common to those found in previous research on small-
holders (e.g., markets, time, labor and ecological
factors), regionally specic contextual factors show an
added layer of complexity to farmersdecision-making
process. Conrming the assertions of social psychology
theory, this research suggests that external factors (e.g.,
economy, demographic change, land-use context and sub-
jective norms) have bearing on smallholders attitudes
and further, on their behavioral intentions regarding on-
farm decision-making and sustainable agricultural prac-
tices. In ECI, demographic changes have introduced
new market conditions and signicant changes in rela-
tionships between farmers. Farmers and local profes-
sionals believe that ECIs agricultural history and social
norms have encouraged the continuing domination of
conventional larger-scale agriculture and the underdevel-
opment of small-scale diversied agriculture relative to
other areas of the state and/or country. Accordingly,
support and resources for small farms is also perceived
to have lagged behind, making it more challenging for
farmers in the area to expand and improve their opera-
tions. At the same time, macroeconomic declines have dis-
proportionately affected the ECI region. Low income and
educational attainment and high unemployment in the
area have potentially contributed to lower consumer will-
ingness-to-pay for local products. Farmers have experi-
enced weaker and more uncertain markets, likely
detracting in part from farmerswillingness to form colla-
borations, further stiing the growth of small-scale farms
and the local food movement. All of these factors com-
pound to underwrite the more simply put notion
expressed by many KIs and farmers that ECI is just
slow to change.
Understanding farmersattitudes is vitalin this study,
like many others, smallholdersattitudes were highly
varied, and their motivations toward sustainable agricul-
tural practices were as well. More importantly, farmers
attitudes are an indicator of the external factors that act
as delimiters to change. That is, solely attempting to
change farmersattitudes will not likely result in a large
shift to the adoption of more sustainable practices; exter-
nal factors act as thresholds that can dictate whether or
not they act on an attitude. Instead of trying to change
the attitudes themselves solely through education, this
research suggests attempts be made to modify these
thresholds so that existent attitudes are allowed to move
in the way that bets them.
If ECI is to progress toward a future including a more
sustainable food system, the approach moving forward
must be multi-faceted. Structural and social solutions at
a regional, state, or even national level noted in this
papers discussion could reduce barriers smallholders
face. At a high level, more attention from educational
agencies could be directed toward issues specic to small-
holders; bureaucratic processes could be reduced to allow
farmers to more easily sell at through multiple direct
market outlets; aggregation, distribution and marketing
hubs could be established to create economies of scale
for small producers. Social norming, though tougher to
implement and involving more time, can lead to signi-
cant behavior change and can address issues at regional
and local levels. For instance, efforts to create spaces
where common practice and socialization arise among
smallholder communities can help build trust and collab-
orative spirit. Integrating local produce and agricultural
education into schools and institutions can normalize
the consumption of local foods and eventually help to
drive consumer demand. In these ways, local agriculture
should be approached as an integrative part of economic
development so that a strong economy will not be neces-
sary to support local agriculture, but rather, that local
agriculture will be avital component of a strong economy.
Acknowledgements. The authors would like to thank the partici-
pants of this study for their willingness to share their time and
their stories as well as the Renewable Agriculture and Food
Systems journal reviewers for providing feedback to create a
stronger manuscript. This research was made possible by grant
funding from the Ball State University ASPiRE Program.
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13Slow to change
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... The means of disseminating the benefits of sustainable agriculture and public policies that encourage its practice can motivate producers. [4,5,10,16,24,28,[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38] Norms and laws to regulate and enforce the implementation of sustainable agriculture ...
... Legislation that promotes sustainable agriculture is a factor that influences its implementation and practice. [5,10,16,28,29,[31][32][33]36,37,39] Human behavior is a important topic, since the change to new management systems in agriculture requires a change of thought and attitudes, which, in consequence, will change the practice of food production and agriculture as a whole [5]. Moreover, farmers lack interest in implementing sustainable agriculture, due to competition between them to increase their production and their ignorance about adopting sustainable agriculture practices [24]. ...
... The search for technical knowledge to adopt sustainable practices is a barrier widely discussed in the literature, due to either a lack of financial capital [42] or access to knowledge [16], or even the complexity and time demanded to adopt these practices [63]. ...
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The world’s population grows yearly, so increasing food production is necessary, to meet consumer demands. This production must be clean; thus, sustainable agriculture seems to represent a solution. However, social, economic, and environmental barriers impede the adoption of this practice. Therefore, this research identified these barriers, according to the sustainability triple-bottom line through a literature review, and analyzed which barriers are more influential and vulnerable to influences, using the Fuzzy DEMATEL method, as well as by considering the opinions of 30 mixed crop producers. As a result, eleven barriers were identified; and “technical knowledge and qualified workforce” was the most influential on not adopting sustainable agriculture. A multi-criteria model was provided and could be replicated in further research. Thus, sustainable practices are provided, to minimize the barriers’ negative impacts and assist producers; highlighting investment and policies for training farmers to have the technical knowledge to practice sustainable agriculture. Theoretical implications were reviewed, such as an analysis of the barriers found in the literature and the lack of studies reporting on the difficulty of producers in adopting sustainable agriculture, as well as the practical implications of providing assistance and transferring knowledge, to eliminate these barriers, so that sustainable practices can be efficiently implemented.
... From a legal perspective, organic and regional foods are treated quite differently in the EU [65]. Complex legal regulations, contradictory interpretations, lack of sufficient institutional support, and high levels of uncertainty have been identified as important limitations to the development of the organic market [36,[65][66][67]. In addition, a study has described the legal limitations related to the export of organic products [68]. ...
... Our research revealed that financial factors determining the macroeconomic situation of the country and directly related to the financial standing have an impact on the current operation, future development, and investment decisions. Surveys among farmers have shown that the important financial risk included high costs, considerable labor input [36,84], uncertain sales in the short or long term, market uncertainty or reduced revenues [63], and receiving inadequate prices for products [67,68]. Economic aspects (the possibility of obtaining subsidies and increased farm income) are cited as one of the most important reasons for switching to organic production [85][86][87], and lack of support or insufficient support is identified as an important barrier to the development of the organic sector [88]. ...
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Our study aimed to explore the factors limiting the development of the organic food sector in Poland from the perspective of processing, distributing, and retailing companies. We used a qualitative approach with in-depth semi-structured interviews with the management board representatives of 17 large- and medium-sized enterprises and the owners of 10 small and medium companies. The potential limiting factors, including legal, economic, technological, and environmental factors, were identified by reviewing the corporate and market reports of processing and retailing companies operating in the Polish organic sector. We used a thematic analysis recommended in the literature to analyze qualitative data. The main factors indicated by the managers were the legal concerns, limitations resulting from a lack of constant supply of organic raw materials, and increased competition on domestic and international markets. In addition, business activities in the Polish organic sector were affected by the instability of the financial situation in terms of financial liquidity, adequate cost, capital structure, and credits. The results of the study may be of value for policymakers to ensure sustainable development of the organic food sector in Poland.
... Em alguns países, a agricultura familiar é chamada de "pequena fazenda" (Grover & Gruver, 2017) em outros como México e Colômbia, é chamada "economia camponesa" (Ortiz, Vilsmaier & Osorio, 2018). ...
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Levando-se em conta as políticas públicas de apoio ao desenvolvimento da agricultura familiar, especificamente no âmbito da disponibilização de recursos por meio de compras públicas em convênios vinculados ao Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento (MAPA), este artigo tem como objetivo a realização de um estudo exploratório descritivo qualitativo, por meio da aplicação de métodos de mineração de dados descritiva, para a identificação dos possíveis impactos decorrentes da pandemia da COVID-19 sobre agricultura familiar, no que tange à disponibilização de recursos públicos vinculados à convênios do MAPA. São utilizados dados de convênios provenientes do MAPA, submetidos a tratamentos específicos para identificação de registros que se enquadrem como recursos de potencial apoio à agricultura familiar, e dados do Ministério da Saúde sobre a evolução das infecções da Covid-19.
... Additionally, the influence of other farmers (social norm) would inspire them to follow suit. This could also be due to societal pressure for farmers to be involved in sustainable practices especially when farmers are not prepared to conform to new ways of farming 50 . The study of Múnera-Bedoya et al. 51 indicated that farm workers are influenced by the availability of tools and relationships between farm workers and manager. ...
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Adoption of Sustainable Agricultural Practices (SAP) among smallholder dairy farmers in developing countries, especially within the Asia Pacific region remains low. This is probably attributable to the fact that psycho-social factors are not considered during the adoption process. The current study was carried out in order to increase the adoption of SAP in Malaysia, by investigating psycho-social factors among dairy farmers. It adopted the enhanced Theory of Planned Behaviour to investigate smallholder dairy farmers' intention to uptake SAP in Malaysia. This study applied the Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) to model how psycho-social factors influence farmers' SAP adoption decisions. A key finding of this study was that farmers who are equipped with the right attitude and belief have the ability to adopt SAP and are inclined to adopt SAP in their farms. Hence, it was proposed that a holistic approach is recommended towards formulating policies and drawing intervention strategies that focus on the farmers' needs and abilities. This would motivate farmers to make choices that would lead to a change of behaviour towards adopting SAP. Additionally, the producer-led approach adopted in this study provided insights into smallholder dairy farmers' beliefs and behaviour.
... Some of them have highlighted the difficulty in implementing the adoption of sustainable measures in agriculture due to the existence of several stakeholders pursuing conflicting objectives (Feola et al. 2015). Some studies show that opposition from interest groups is the main constraining factor for the successful adoption of new practices in agriculture (Grover and Gruver 2017). It is, therefore, necessary to design proposals that take the stakeholders' needs into account and that reconcile the diverse views (Aznar-Sánchez et al. 2017). ...
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Technology has made it possible to achieve the very efficient use of water resources in agriculture. However, there are a set of practices that could increase both the availability and quality of the water resources, but which are not yet widely used. In view of the scarcity situation mainly produced by the consequences of climate change, the objective of this work is to analyse the adoption of sustainable irrigation management practices in agriculture. To this end, the aim is to identify and evaluate the variables involved in adopting sustainable practices in agriculture through the use of different qualitative research tools in successive phases (literature review, in-depth interviews, Delphi method and workshop). The results indicate that the sustainable practices to be adopted to improve water management in the study area are rainwater harvesting (RWH) and pond covering (PC). The main barriers are the costs, some farm characteristics and lack of research, while the facilitators include easy access to technology and the existence of farmer-to-farmer networks. Furthermore, the most influential stakeholders for these practices are the farmers, policymakers and researchers. Proposals for the adoption of sustainable water use practices have also been made consensually with all the involved agents.
... SAPs offer opportunities for farmers to increase farm production efficiency and adapt to the effects of climate change (Corbeels et al. 2014), but the rate of adoption of sustainable farming practices among smallholder farmers remains low (Grover and Gruver 2017). The low rate of adoption of sustainable agriculture practices is an issue that requires better understanding and further attention. ...
Purpose: This study aims to access the perception of smallholder coffee farmers on barriers to the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices (SAPs).Methodology: Survey data were obtained through a questionnaire from 122 coffee producers in Nyeri County, the central region of Kenya. Data were subjected to factor analysis using varimax rotation to identify key factors likely to hinder the adoption of SAPs.Findings: Six factors were extracted through exploratory factor analysis: deficient knowledge, materials and process encumbrances, financial challenges, cost–benefit rationality, capacity and market constraints, and lack of skills. Cronbach’s alpha was used to ensure the reliability of the data and overall level of agreement among respondents.Practical implications: The study concludes that the pathway to integrating coffee smallholders into sustainable global value chains should start with increasing awareness about the sustainability impacts of coffee agriculture before implementing training programs on SAPs. Purpose: This study aims to access the perception of smallholder coffee farmers on barriers to the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices (SAPs). Methodology: Survey data were obtained through a questionnaire from 122 coffee producers in Nyeri County, the central region of Kenya. Data were subjected to factor analysis using varimax rotation to identify key factors likely to hinder the adoption of SAPs. Findings: Six factors were extracted through exploratory factor analysis: deficient knowledge, materials and process encumbrances, financial challenges, cost–benefit rationality, capacity and market constraints, and lack of skills. Cronbach’s alpha was used to ensure the reliability of the data and overall level of agreement among respondents. Practical implications: The study concludes that the pathway to integrating coffee smallholders into sustainable global value chains should start with increasing awareness about the sustainability impacts of coffee agriculture before implementing training programs on SAPs.
... Thus, developing food safety training programs that are geared toward small-scale farms is recommended (10,14,16,36). ...
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Production of value-added foods is of growing interest to small-scale produce growers. However, previous studies reported that they lack sufficient food safety awareness and have limited knowledge of applicable food safety regulations. Targeted food safety education can help to address these challenges. This study used focus groups and a combination of Web-based and printed surveys to evaluate growers' attitudes toward and knowledge of value-added business and to assess their food safety education needs. In total, 136 Indiana produce growers participated in the study, including 38 focus group participants and 98 survey participants. Overall, growers were aware of the importance of food safety, with 78% of the survey participants agreeing strongly that food safety was a top priority in value-added businesses. Most survey participants (82%) self-reported being knowledgeable about food safety. Most were confident in their ability to run a successful value-added business. The top two barriers that hindered growers from learning about food safety were time limitations and an overwhelming amount of information. Growers preferred to receive additional educational materials on selling non-home-based vendor products, communication strategies with regulators and inspectors, and marketing strategies; they trusted the information from extension educators and university extension publications the most. This study guides the development of future food safety education programs for small-scale growers who are interested in establishing a value-added business. Highlights:
... Moreover, policies that favor commodity crops and that provide little support for diversified farming systems currently create friction for farmers working to transform their systems (Bowman and Zilberman 2013). Farm subsidies tend to favor larger farms and make it difficult for smaller, diverse farms to thrive, and they discourage crop diversity by favoring the monocultural production of a limited number of commodity crops (Grover and Gruver 2017;Lin 2011). Regenerative agriculture in the U.S. will require a rewriting of the values embedded in farm bill policies. ...
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U.S. agriculture is both a major source of global food and a key contributor to multiple interconnected crises. Climate change, biodiversity loss, and severe impacts on soil and water quality are among the challenges caused by U.S. industrial agriculture. Regenerative methods of farming are necessary to confront all these challenges simultaneously, in addition to addressing the increasing challenges to farm labor conditions. Transforming U.S. agriculture to a regenerative system will require a focus on creating traction for the values, beliefs, worldviews, and paradigms that effectively support such transformation while decreasing the friction that works against them. With a focus on creating traction for transformation, we review the factors and processes that tend to promote and maintain ecological improvements on farms. Starting from a case study that points to some of the sources of friction and traction in the current U.S. agricultural system, we use the framework of three spheres of transformation to focus discussion on how processes that form beliefs and values shape and can reshape farming. We develop a series of points of entry for engaging the systemic changes that will offer farmers traction for transformation. We review literature on agricultural networks, polycentric governance, social learning, agricultural education, and farmer characteristics that lend themselves to ecologically mindful change, thereby identifying interventions that tend to provide traction for change. These approaches, and the supports that allow rural communities and the people that work in them to survive and thrive, are necessary to create the traction needed for farms to undergo a shift to regenerative agricultural practices. We link these changes to the promise of the twentieth century New Deal agricultural programs and the potential of the Green New Deal.
With environmental degradation reaching emergency levels, urgent action for preventable behaviours is needed. There is limited scientific evidence available indicating key success factors that can be implemented to support lasting farming practice change. This study reports the outcomes of an evidence review that was undertaken to identify influential factors for farming practice change. The systematic literature review identified data sources derived from six databases (EBSCO All Databases, Emerald, ProQuest All Databases, Ovid All Databases, Web of Science and Scopus). The search yielded a total of 5044 results. After first and second-tier exclusion criteria, 363 articles were fully reviewed to determine which sources would inform this study. A total of 75 studies reported factors inhibiting or promoting farming practice change. A total of 26 barriers and enablers were identified across seven key dimensions, namely: Financial Support & Market forces; Information dissemination; Farmer & Farm characteristics; Institutional setting & Regulations, Stakeholder interactions; Farming practice; Beliefs, Attitudes and Individual Capabilities. Limitations and future research opportunities were identified.
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p class="Default"> Background . The farmer and his family member are the main actors in the decision-making process for production unit operation (PU), due to the extensive knowledge they have about the production strategies and dynamics. Objective . Analyze the main factors that intervene in the making and construction of decisions for PU operation in dry tropic conditions. Methodology . The information was obtained through a structured survey to farmers of 61 PU of dual-purpose livestock (DP). The PUs were stratified based on the number of Total Livestock Units (TLU): Stratum 1 = UP of ≥ 5 and ≤ 43 TLU (E1), Stratum 2 = PU of ≥ 44 and ≤ 87 TLU (E2) and Stratum 3 = UP with more than 88 TLU (E3). The work consists of three sections: i. an analysis of the activity current situation (structural and socioeconomic), using descriptive statistics and budgets by activity; ii. an analysis of the PU structural changes from 2008-2013-2018 and, iii. an analysis using the Likert Scale of the farmers opinions and objectives on the activity. Results . PUs are characterized by the small families presence, with 58-year-old farmers (65% have primary and secondary education). The main income (81.44%) comes from livestock sale and although higher income is observed in large PUs, the unit margin per ha<sup>-1</sup> and cow<sup>-1</sup> is higher in small PUs. The participation of the family is fundamental in the decision-making process and the main objective of the farmer is the well-being of the family group, care of the environment in which they develop and maintaining the PU structure. Smaller PUs are dynamic and enthusiastic about structural changes. Implications . The work set the guidelines of the PU and identified the factors that intervene in the decision-making process, the viability, dynamics and permanence of livestock in the dry tropics. Conclusion . The family is essential to help for the farmer in the decision-making process. mainly in the health and nutrition of the herd, as well as in the sale and commercialization of products and, the maintenance of the structure of the PU and care of the environment in which they develop is the main objective. Keywords: cattle; dual purpose; dry tropics; family; decision making.</p
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Technical Report
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The target audiences for this guide are food entrepreneurs and their supporters who are interested in starting food hubs and operators of food hubs who are interested in expanding. This guide will also help philanthropic foundations, public agencies, lending institutions, and economic development organizations understand the nature, function, and operating models of food hubs, helping them to engage hubs in their areas.
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Various organic technologies have been utilized for about 6000 years to make agriculture sustainable while conserving soil, water, energy, and biological resources. Among the benefits of organic technologies are higher soil organic matter and nitrogen, lower fossil energy inputs, yields similar to those of conventional systems, and conservation of soil moisture and water resources (especially advantageous under drought conditions). Conventional agriculture can be made more sustainable and ecologically sound by adopting some traditional organic farming technologies.
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We analyzed the main drivers for ecological restoration in Iceland from 1907 to 2010 and assessed whether the drivers have changed over time and what factors might explain the changes, if any. Our study was based on a catalogue of 100 restoration projects, programs, and areas, representing 75% to 85% of all restoration activities in Iceland. Catastrophic erosion was an early driver for soil conservation and restoration efforts that still ranked high in the 2000s, reflecting the immense scale of soil erosion and desertification in Iceland. Socioeconomic drivers such as farming and the provision of wood products were strong motivators of ecological restoration over most of the 20th century, although their relative importance decreased with time as the number and diversity of drivers increased. In the 1960s and 1970s, the construction of hard infrastructure, and moral values such as improving the aesthetics of the countryside and "repaying the debt to the land" emerged as motivations for restoration actions. In the late 1990s, the United Nations Climate Change Convention became a driver for restoration, and the importance of nature conservation and recreation increased. Technological development and financial incentives did not show up as drivers of ecological restoration in our study, although there are some indications of their influence. Furthermore, policy was a minor driver, which might reflect weak policy instruments for ecological restoration and some counteractive policies.
The role of the public in US policy making has shifted substantially during the past several decades. This shift is particularly evident in environmental policy, where collaboration among multiple stakeholders is on the rise. Much of the literature on collaborative environmental management emphasizes the need for widespread community involvement, especially from private citizens. Many proponents of collaboration have argued that broad inclusion can lead to better environmental solutions while also establishing legitimacy, building social capital, and overcoming conflicts. Yet such broad inclusion may be costly in terms of time, energy, and resources, and it may not yield the desired results. Thus, a key question is how the breadth of public involvement is linked to collaborative group accomplishments. This study, using watershed groups in Ohio, demonstrates several links between group membership and results. Groups with a broader array of participants tend to excel in watershed plan creation, identifying/prioritizing issues, and group development and maintenance. In addition, groups comprised of a relatively balanced mix of governmental and non-governmental participants are more likely to list planning/research and group development and maintenance results than are groups comprised primarily of non-governmental participants. In contrast, groups with a narrower membership and groups that are composed primarily of non-governmental participants may focus more on pressuring government for policy change.
Across the United States, farms are consolidating and fewer individuals earn their sole income from agriculture. At the same time, the number of very small farms—many of which engage in direct-to-consumer sales strategies—is on the rise. While much research has explored issues of size and scale for farms transitioning to organic certification, this study aims to elucidate the variables that predict whether farmers sell directly to consumers or through indirect methods such as food hubs, wholesalers, schools, and other institutions. Using a mailed survey to West Virginian farmers, this research attempted to better understand the similarities and differences between farms that produce specialty crops and animal products geared for local distribution via direct- and non-direct-to-consumer method of distribution. The goal of this research was to highlight variables that may affect the scaling of operations to include distribution methods beyond direct-to-consumer. To this end, a postal survey was sent to a list of West Virginia farmers focused on local distribution: specialty crop and animal producers were the focus of our list development. A total of 219 participants responded to the survey (29.2% response rate). After cleaning the dataset for the current analysis, 190 surveys were deemed useable. Regression analysis of survey data found that farmers selling through only direct-to-consumer strategies were more concerned about how their farming practices affected the environment, the production of high quality foods, and health risks associated with chemical usage; they were also more willing to try new methods than their non-direct counterparts. Additionally, higher levels of economic dependence on items such as costs of credit, loan availability, etc. was also a significant variable in predicting distribution type. Finally, our results indicate that farmers who are distributing food through non-direct means are demographically distinct from their local-only counterparts on a number of measures, including, most critically: educational attainment (−), acres farmed (+), and length of family ownership (+). Taken together, these variables point to access to land and capital as determinants of scale and marketing strategy.
A paired comparison of 60 Illinois from families was employed, 30 using sustainable systems and 30 using conventional systems, to determine factors affecting adoption of sustainable farming systems. The groups do not diverge significantly along dimensions typically accounting for farming contrasts, but are distinctive socially. Families using sustainable systems have traditions of environmentalism, systematically do on-farm experimentation, and are prudent about resources. Rather than making a paradigm shift to environmentally sensitive farming, families who adopt have a predisposition toward sustainable practices in all aspects of their lives. Adoption of sustainable systems is therefore as much for efficiency or financial motives as it is for environmental reasons. Families farming conventionally, but sharing many characteristics identified with sustainable families, potentially are those best targeted for educational programs.
In spite of the fact that chain referral sampling has been widely used in qualitative sociological research, especially in the study of deviant behavior, the problems and techniques involved in its use have not been adequately explained. The procedures of chain referral sampling are not self-evident or obvious. This article attempts to rectify this methodological neglect. The article provides a description and analysis of some of the problems that were encountered and resolved in the course of using the method in a relatively large exploratory study of ex-opiate addicts.
Industrial agriculture has extensive environmental and social costs, and efforts to create alternative farming systems are widespread if not yet widely successful. This study explored how a set of grain farmers and rotational graziers in Iowa transitioned to agroecological management practices. Our focus on the resources and strategies that farmers mobilized to develop opportunities for, and overcome barriers to, transitioning to alternative practices allows us to go beyond the existing literature focused on why farmers transition. We attend to both the ecological and socioeconomic context of innovation by comparing processes of technical change in two contrasting regions of Iowa. Farmers cultivated farm-level biodiversity and enterprise diversity, developed new cognitive and psychological competencies, and overcame barriers to innovation by developing external network linkages with peers, knowledge organizations, and federal policies. Our research provides insights into how biophysical, cognitive, structural and market considerations can be integrated into research efforts that aim to make sense of innovation toward sustainable agriculture.