Exploration of the Ethical Basis for Agricultural Sustainability
Five workshops were held in Colorado with a total of about 130, Cooperative Extension personel, growers, and other participants. One workshop was held in Santa Fe, NM with 35 attendees. 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 that was distributed to the group.
1. To provide a three- to four-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.
Five workshops have been conducted in four places (two in Durango) 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 and fifth were arranged by the same County Extension specialist in La Plata County (Durango), CO. Each of the La Plata County workshops included people from the local four-year college (Fort Lewis 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, their willingness to engage in discussion, 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 in 2002 but too few people were able to attend on the days scheduled and the workshops were cancelled. The proposals original intent was to hold a workshop with interested members of the Cooperative Extension staff of the University of Wyoming. We were unable to schedule a workshop in Wyoming because Wyoming Cooperative Extension did not hold a Statewide meeting in 2002 and their 2003 meeting was held jointly with Colorado Cooperative Extension in Fort Collins. That workshop was presented in February 2003.
After many e-mails and phone calls a workshop was held in Santa Fe, NM in September 2003 with representatives of the Northern New Mexico Cooperative Extension group.
The primary disappointment of the workshops has been the lack of attendance by farmers (except for several organic growers in the Durango area) and Natural Resource Service personnel. It is my view that those scheduling the meetings are among the many who are already over scheduled and were unable to reach out to people from other agencies and encourage attendance. Secondly while those who did attend enjoyed the workshop and were willing to engage in ethical discussion, it is not a topic that readily attracts busy people to another meeting. Workshop evaluations show that many of those who attended think that agriculture does not have any ethical problems. Those who have this view think that the problems agriculture faces are primarily matter of bad government policy and a detrimental economic situation. Agriculture’s problems are economic not ethical. It is a view that shared by students in our agricultural ethics class.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Each workshop has requested the participants to complete a seven question evaluation. A 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.
Department of soil and crop sciences
C6 plant sciences
fort collins, co 80523
Office Phone: 9704911913