Conventional agricultural practices, while capable of producing large amounts of food and fiber, frequently result in environmental degradation and socioeconomic losses. These negative aspects of conventional agriculture have led many to promote sustainable agricultural practices. Sustainable practices seek to ensure the future of agriculture by promoting environmental stewardship, generating an acceptable level of income, and maintaining stable farm families and communities (SARE, 2002).
The transformation of agriculture into a more sustainable system requires that farmers adopt sustainable practices. However, the factors that determine whether a farmer will adopt a sustainable practice are unclear.
This research project, funded by the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SSARE), sought to identify these determinants of adoption by engaging in three activities: a comprehensive literature review, a survey of change agents, and interviews with farmers who had adopted sustainable practices.
Results from the literature review, the survey, and the interviews revealed multiple determinants of adoption. The most frequently mentioned theme throughout all of the interviews, both in volume and in frequency of responses, was the social aspects of adopting sustainable farming practices.
Our report suggests that while adoption of sustainable practices is a highly variable phenomenon that can involve many factors, there are several general determinants that can significantly influence adoption. These determinants are discussed in the context of recommendations to the SSARE program.
A copy of the full 238-page report in MsWord with graphs and tables can be obtained from the Southern SARE website at