Increasing the prevalence of regenerative practices in commercial grain farming, such as diverse crop rotations, cover cropping, and reduced tillage, is critical to sustaining and improving the environmental quality of the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. Research is clear that regenerative practices both reduce and remediate the damaging environmental effects of commercial-scale, conventional agriculture, while enhancing economic, agronomic, and human health outcomes for farmers.
The literature indicates that the generally accepted model of economic decision-making does not sufficiently explain farmers’ motivations when deciding whether to adopt regenerative practices, and underscores the importance of including social factors in the analysis. Identity-based decision-making is a theory of human motivation that explains how a person’s perception of their identity shapes their choices. We hypothesize that assisting farmers in incorporating regenerative practices into their identity as “successful farmers” would facilitate the adoption of these practices. Through this project, we aim to better understand identity-based barriers to adoption of regenerative practices and to assist stakeholders in addressing these barriers in their educational programs.
Building upon the recommendations of previous scholarly work, we will take a qualitative case-study approach to this investigation. In this multi-phase study, we will conduct semi-structured interviews and focus groups to investigate how perceived identity shapes farmer willingness to adopt regenerative practices. We will then formulate a protocol to mitigate identity-based barriers and increase the likelihood that farmers will adopt regenerative practices. Using this protocol, we will develop a guide for use by educators and other stakeholders when developing their educational and outreach materials.
Learning outcomes will allow farmers, educators, conservation associates, and other stakeholders to:
- understand how identity-based barriers affect decision-making on adopting regenerative farming practices;
- gain skills to overcome these identity-based barriers;
and allow farmers to:
- feel successful in the face of peer examination of their farming practices.
- Educators and conservation associates will utilize the findings of this project in their work.
- This project will increase the number of farmers adopting regenerative practices.
- The ecological condition of Midwest farms will improve with increased use of regenerative practices on commercial-scale grain farms.
This project aims to better understand identity-based barriers to adoption of regenerative practices in commercial grain production and to assist stakeholders in addressing these barriers in their educational and outreach programs.
We hypothesize that assisting farmers in incorporating regenerative practices into their identity as “successful farmers” will facilitate the adoption of these practices. We also hypothesize that equipping stakeholders to better address identity-based barriers towards the adoption of regenerative practices in commercial grain production will assist them in providing stronger, more meaningful education and outreach programs.
To date, our approach to this investigation and methodology is as follows.
We began by generating a list of row crop farmers in the target research area through recruitment at Illinois Farm Progress Show and the All-Day Ag Outlook meeting as well as discussion with our farmer constituents. Through this process, we identified nearly 40 farmers to approach for an initial screening interview. Our goal is to conduct in-depth interviews with 20 farmers meeting the following criteria: are located in Illinois; dedicate a significant portion of their time and derive a significant portion of their income from farming (no “hobby” farmers); raise corn, soybeans, wheat, rye, or other grain crops at a commercial-scale; and have not been extensively interviewed about regenerative farming practices before (no “celebrity” farmers). Additionally, the makeup of the 20 farmers consists of 10 conventional farmers who use no regenerative practices, 5 conventional farmers who use at least one regenerative practice, and 5 farmers who are either transitioning or are currently certified organic.
We finalized the research protocol and developed a plan to begin piloting screening and in-depth interviews in January 2020.
The research protocol is being piloted in early 2020. There are no results to share as of this report.
The educational approach used in this project will be developed based on the outcomes of the research. This has not yet been developed.
Educational & Outreach Activities
This portion of the project has not yet begun.