- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational
- Crop Production: continuous cropping
- Education and Training: focus group, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development, value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: riverbank protection, soil stabilization
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures
The dairy sector in Wisconsin is currently stressed with a cost-price squeeze & threat of increased environmental. Alternative dairy offers promise in countering these obstacles. This study will focus primarily on eco-labeled dairy (organic & pasture based). Most of the eco-labeled, pasture based producers are Amish. The proposal is written for follow-up interviews based on an initial mail survey, profitability analysis, & further comparative analysis aimed at (1) Determining barriers & successes (2) Analyzing profitability, quality of life indicators, management practices & (3) Exploring Amish eco-labeled dairy farming practices (& diversity within) while considering Anabaptist faith and culture. The short term goals include (i) Increase knowledge for all farmers & the public on the background, profitability, challenges, & needs of organic & pasture based dairy, as well as Amish farming practices (ii) Begin to explore the possible links between Amish production practices & the ecological health of the Kickapoo. Long term goals include (i) Policies & research applicable to alternative dairy (organic, pasture & Amish); (ii) More transitioners into alternative dairy, (iii) Integration with consumer research for a holistic picture of organic dairy, & (iv) Potential connections made between church & sustainability. Evaluation will be provided by initial farmer survey, ongoing feedback from farmers, managers of eco-labeled dairy operations, & a diverse group of professional colleagues.
Project objectives from proposal:
Dairy farming has historically dominated Wisconsin agriculture, but many dairy farmers are currently in a cost-price squeeze raising long-term viability concerns. Furthermore, there is impending threat of increased regulation, as society strives to deal with environmental issues. These stresses have resulted in dramatic decrease in dairy farming as the state lost 59.9% of its dairy operations in the past twenty years (Cross, 1993). At the same time as the dairy sector overall is dwindling, alternative forms of dairy production are expanding. This study will focus on eco-labeled sectors of pasture & organic based dairy, which provide an alternative path responsive to economic & environmental pressures. Most of the eco-labeled pasture dairy farmers in this study are Amish so their farming/stewardship practices (& diversity within) will also be studied. PATS research on rotational grazing show adoption rates have tripled from 1993 to 1999 (Ostrom & Jackson-Smith, 2000). Organic dairy in the state is currently booming with substantial price premiums (at 80-115%) (Mariola, 2003) & increasing consumer support (growth rate of 27%) (Lawless & Powell, 2003). Movements towards a more organic system can also reduce environmental costs. A U.K. study found that organic agriculture produces $125-200/ha per yr of positive externalities (Pretty et al, 2000). Alternative systems have 2-3 times the energy efficiency of conventional systems (Smolik, J.D. et al 1995). Organically managed soil also showed a higher level of microbial activity, greater diversity of microorganisms (Petersen, C. L. et al. 1999), decreased erosion problems (Smolik et al., 1995), & sequester larger amounts of carbon & nitrogen (Drinkwater, et al. 1998). In addition to pasture & organic dairy farming, the Amish method of farming seems to be flourishing as the overall dairy sector shrinks (Cross, 2002 , E.R.C. 2001; Cross et al 2002). Indeed, the counties in Wisconsin associated with the most stable dairy farm populations are Amish (Cross et al, 2002). If dairy population trends continue, by 2009, Amish will comprise 20% of the state’s dairy operations (Cross, 2002). Much of alternative agriculture literature depict the Amish as a model of sustainability (Blake et al, 1997; Berry, 1997; Berry, 1981; Logsdon, 1986, Yoder, 1980). Despite the flourishing of alternative dairy sectors, there are constraints that may prevent them from operating to their fullest potential. Barriers to alternative production include lack of access to technical information on marketing & production (Lampkin & Padel, 1994). The paucity of research in organics is illustrated by the inclusion of only a few (3-4) organic farms in a recent Wisconsin Dairy Profitability report (Kriegl, 2001), & the dearth of research acres & DATCAP programs dedicated to organics (Sooby, 2003). Another concern associated with alternative dairy, is that the Amish farm population is concentrated in the ecological fragile Kickapoo Valley (Jacobs & Bassett, 1995). Amish are well known for not participating in government programs, & so do not have much direct contact with conservation agents who are concerned their farming practices may be associated with erosion & water quality problems in the Kickapoo (Aerson, Zinn, Hastings, Hoff- 2003). The Amish are more receptive with NGO’s, & Trout’s Unlimited has previously distributed verbal & written information on rotational grazing & stream bed repair. This work caused change in a small number of farmers & any further ramifications from the project are unknown (Peper, 2003). Previous environmental research aired on PBS illustrated the power of integrating the faith of the subjects with respect to making sustainability connections (Pohorski, 2000; Emmerich, 2003 ). Our objectives are to 1. Determine the factors that influence performance (at the farm-level) on eco-labeled dairy 2. Compare & contrast profitability, quality of life & management practices within & between organic, pasture dairy (including those that don’t eco-label) & conventional producers 3. Explore Amish farming stewardship practices while considering Anabaptist faith and culture. The short term goals include (i)Increase knowledge for all farmers & the public on the background, profitability, challenges, & needs of alterative dairy; (ii) Explore the links between Amish production practices & the ecological health of the Kickapoo. Long term goals include (i) Policies & research applicable to alternative dairy; (ii) More transitioners into alternative dairy; (iii) Integration with consumer research for a holistic picture; & (iv) Connections made between church & sustainability. Evaluation will be provided by initial farmer survey, ongoing feedback from farmers, managers of eco-labeled dairy operations, & a diverse group of professional colleagues. C. Literature review There are a number of research endeavors that have documented the promise of the alternative dairy sector. Studies show graziers can be economically competitive with confinement herds (Kriegl, 2001; Zartman, 1991; Ostrom & Jackson-Smith, 2000, Kallenbach, 2002. (Wonnacott, 1997) & (Posner, 1990) illustrate profitability benefits from transitions into organics. A number of organic dairy studies found a 10-15% drop in milk yield, but similar income levels (Reganhold,; DADC, 1998; Burgoyne et. al, 1995; Lampkin & Padel, 1994). Some reasons for this are lower purchased feed costs, vet. bills & medical bills (Kamp,1993). A recent SARE study demonstrates the potential of Amish farming practices as Amish farms in Ohio kept an average of 54 % of their gross income as cash profit compared to 17 % for four non-Amish dairy farms. The smaller size of the Amish farms (27 cows) had the same cash profit as the larger non-Amish farms (68 cows). The diversity of the Amish farms & shared labor factor provided by their large families (Kraybill, 2003) were seen as critical factors in their economic success (Stinner, 1995). The ability of Amish to flourish is remarkable given their minimal use of energy & technology such as tractors but also due to their independence from agricultural subsidies (Cross, 2003, Yoder, 1990, Kraybill, 2001). Amish farm yields were found to be slightly lower in studies in Illinois & Wisconsin but were higher in Pennsylvania (Johnson et al, 1997). In addition, as mentioned before the alternative dairy sector may offer more than just an economically & ecologically sound alternative. Dairy farmers who rotate their cows more than once a day were more likely to report job satisfaction (Ostrom & Jackson-Smith, 2000) which suggest quality of life differences for pasture & organic farmers compared to conventional farmers. Amish dairy farmers clearly depict an alternative lifestyle & value-structure. Research has demonstrated the importance of looking at farmer ideology with regard to farmer decision making in designing effective policies (Lunneryd, 2003). Although Amish farming practices in particular are generally associated with sustainable practices, the recent stresses in agriculture has led to more intensive farming practices which may compromise their Biblical/ Anabaptist call for stewardship (Redekop, 2000; Hostetler, 1993; Kraybill, 2001). Studies in Pennsylvania & Ohio (& discussions with Kickapoo area conservation agents) have documented water quality problems occurring because of misapplication of manure, fertilizer & pesticides, & over-grazing pastures especially nearby streambeds (Hostetler, 1993). It is not clear if any generalizations can be made on the sustainability of Amish farming overall (Jacobs & Bassett, 1995). D. Approach, activities, methods & Inputs The details of on-farm interviews on alternative dairy farms will be based on a survey of a population list of eco-labeled dairy with institutional support from PATS (Program on Agricultural Technology Studies). Most of these farmers come from two cooperatives, Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP), & K&K Cheese. The survey covers: (i)labor & income sources, (ii)production & marketing channels, (iii)use of technology & management techniques (vi)conservation practices, (viii)research needs, & (ix) preliminary documentation of struggles, successes & quality of life. This alternative dairy survey is a sub-survey of a larger PATS value-added survey of a random sample of farmers (all types) doing direct marketing, special labeling, & processing. We propose to do follow-up interviews, profitability analysis, & further comparative analysis with existing data aimed at (1) Determining barriers & successes (2) Analyzing profitability, quality of life indicators, management practices & (3) Exploring Amish farming/stewardship practices. We will do focus groups & on-farm interviews (20-30 farms in pasture-Amish & 20-30 organic farms) on issues raised from the survey especially with respect to challenges & successes in eco-labeled dairy. (The Amish on-farm study will likely take a different format which heavily involves Amish Bishops and other Amish contact.) PATS has some initial data on a broader range of graziers (those practicing rotational grazing but not labeling as such) & conventional dairy producers for additional comparisons. Profitability analysis will also be done for organic & pasture-Amish farmers & compared with existing data for conventional & graziers from the Center for Dairy Profitability. Grazier (non-Amish) data will be used for generalizability for potential transitioners. Results from on-farm interviews, profitability data, & surveys will create a picture of alternative dairy in the state. The outputs of this project will be: (i)At least one PATS publication that will serve as training material for extension (ii)Several PATS talks; (iii)PhD trained in sustainable agriculture; (iv)Provide information that will serve as a base of media presentations. The following talks & article are envisioned: (i)Upper Midwest Organics conference workshop (30 people) ; (ii) Land Institute Workshop (40 people) ; (iii)Ag Econ Meeting (30 people); (iv) Center for Churches, Land & People (40 people). The progress on this project will be evaluated by continuous input & feed back from farmers, numerous collaborators (Appendix 3). An initial survey of alternative dairy producers will serve as a base for on-farm interviews, & profitability analysis. The outcome of this project will also be reviewed by journal referees, University & PATS colleagues & participants of conferences (farmers, academics, & church leaders).