Training in Alternative Research Strategies for Sustainable Farming Systems
To obtain agents’ and farmers’ perspectives on on-farm research.
- 1) Three farmers and two agents designed an on-farm research trial to compare conventional apple production with organic apple production. Farmer was pleased with volume, quality and earned income from the organic apples.
2) Agent explained how she designs projects, incorporates farmers’ questions for research, and budgets for the costs of projects.
3) Agent and seven growers of fraser firs involved in a Round-up tolerance study. 2,660 trees involved in trial.
4) An agent and some of his county farmers conducted production trials on organic broccoli to see if it was a viable alternative to tobacco production.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Participating farmer wants to move forward to compete nationally in organic apple production. He wants to learn what is needed to grow organic apples routinely so as to improve soil health and decrease disease pressures. One agent wants to encourage other agents to collaborate in multi-county experiments to gain regional results. From the fraser fir experiments, some very useful information in raising fraser firs better and cheaper resulted. The organic broccoli project resulted in development of a coop and regular gatherings of farmers to discuss production and marketing issues.
An outcome of this on-farm research is debate as to who owns the data that results. The example of the Christmas tree fraser fir growers highlighted that they were reluctant to publish the information they accumulated due to fears of competition from tree farmers in other areas of the U.S.
Gathering data systematically and conducting analysis remains a daunting process. Further training in both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis would be useful if more agents were to get involved in on-farm research.