Exploration of the Ethical Basis for Agricultural Sustainability

2002 Annual Report for EW01-021

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $26,772.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,331.00
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Robert Zimdahl
Weed Research Lab, Colorado State University

Exploration of the Ethical Basis for Agricultural Sustainability


Four workshops were held in Colorado with a total of about 90, primarily Cooperative Extension participants. Each workshop included an introduction to ethics, the challenges of achieving agricultural sustainability, the group’s description of the characteristics of a sustainable agricultural system, and discussion of the ethical reasons for decisions in a case study.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. To provide a three-hour educational workshop designed to explore the ethical foundation (the reasons for ethical choices) of views of sustainability held by Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension specialists, Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel, invited farmers, and invited agricultural community group personnel.
2. To increase participant’s awareness of the issues involved in agricultural sustainability (e.g., saving family farms, manure disposal, pesticide use) and to present and discuss the ethical foundation of the views presented.


Four workshops have been conducted in four places in Colorado. Two of the workshops were held as part of a regional meeting of Colorado State Extension personnel. One invited people from the region but was held at a county extension office, and the fourth was arranged by a County Extension specialist. The last included people form the local four-year college, farmers, and a few other Cooperative Extension people. Each meeting was quite different from the other because of the people that attended, their interests, and the differing views of sustainability the group developed.
Each meeting accomplished its primary goal – to encourage the participants to think of the ethical dimension of what they do and the ethics of sustainability. Each group developed a better understanding of the contrast between what is and what ought to be. Each came to understand that what is does not equate to what ought to be (the most desirable) and that the reverse is also true.
Two additional workshops were planned but too few people were able to attend on the days scheduled and the workshops were cancelled. We are trying to find a good date to schedule both in January 2003. The proposal’s intent was to hold a workshop with interested members of the Cooperative Extension staff of the University of Wyoming. Due to the fact that Wyoming Cooperative Extension did not hold a State meeting in 2002, that workshop has not been held. It is now scheduled for February 2003 when the Cooperative Extension group from Wyoming and Colorado will hold a joint annual conference on the Colorado State University campus.
Required Budgetary Details:
R. L. Zimdahl (5 % time allocation) has received two weeks of salary.
J. G. Davis (5 % time allocation) has received two weeks salary.
The Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management and the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences each received $1315 to cover budgeted administrative support staff expenses. The duties in each department included financial accounting and very limited secretarial support.
One graduate student was paid hourly to summarize the workshop evaluations.
Fringe Benefits:
Both Zimdahl and Davis received fringe benefits at the CSU rate of 19.6 %.
Materials and Supplies:
Only small amounts of money ($132 of budgeted $3000) have been spent for location rental and photocopying service for materials distributed to meeting participants.
Less than $1000 of the budgeted $10,800 have been spent for travel. Some of this was for rental of Colorado State University motor pool vehicles and for use of personal vehicles when appropriate. Due to schedule conflicts, R. L. Zimdahl conducted the workshop in Durango, CO alone and flew to and from Durango (an 8+ hour drive).
Other Direct Costs:
Anticipated publication costs have not been incurred to date.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Each workshop has included a detailed evaluation. These have been summarized and the summary will be included in our final report. Appraisal of the workshops has been mixed. Most thought what we did was interesting and challenging but some thought it was not particularly useful. We believe we accomplished the primary goal of introducing ethical thought into agricultural questions.


Jessica Davis

Department of soil and crop sciences
C6 plant sciences
fort collins, co 80523
Office Phone: 9704911913