Midwestern Initiative to Discern and Overcome Identity-Based Barriers to Adopting Regenerative Practices in Commercial Grain Farming

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $197,909.00
Projected End Date: 12/15/2022
Grant Recipient: The Land Connection
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Cassidy Dellorto-Blackwell
The Land Connection

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, crop rotation, nutrient management, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: focus group
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, drift/runoff buffers, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: Sustainable/regenerative
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Increasing the prevalence of regenerative practices in commercial grain farming, such as diverse crop rotations, cover cropping, and reduced tillage, is critical to sustaining and improving the environmental quality of the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. Research is clear that regenerative practices both reduce and remediate the damaging environmental effects of commercial-scale agriculture, while enhancing economic, agronomic, and human health outcomes for farmers.

    The literature indicates that the generally accepted model of economic decision-making does not sufficiently explain farmers' motivations when deciding whether to adopt regenerative practices, and underscores the importance of including social factors in the analysis. Identity-based decision-making is a theory of human motivation that explains how a person's perception of their identity shapes their choices. We hypothesize that assisting farmers in incorporating regenerative practices into their identity as "successful farmers" would facilitate the adoption of these practices. Through this project, we aim to better understand identity-based barriers to adoption of regenerative practices and to assist stakeholders in addressing these barriers in their educational programs.

    Building upon the recommendations of previous scholarly work, we will take a qualitative case-study approach to this investigation. In this multi-phase study, we will conduct semi-structured interviews and focus groups to investigate how perceived identity shapes farmer willingness to adopt regenerative practices. We will then formulate a protocol to mitigate identity-based barriers and increase the likelihood that farmers will adopt regenerative practices. Using this protocol, we will develop a guide for use by educators and other stakeholders when developing their educational and outreach materials.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    Learning outcomes will allow farmers, educators, conservation associates, and other stakeholders to:

    * understand how identity-based barriers affect decision-making on adopting regenerative farming practices;
    * gain skills to overcome these identity-based barriers;

    and allow farmers to:

    feel successful in the face of peer-to-peer examination of their farming practices.

    Action outcomes:

    * Educators and conservation associates will utilize the findings of this project in their work.
    * This project will increase the number of farmers adopting regenerative practices.

    System-wide outcomes:

    * The ecological condition of Midwest farms will improve with increased use of regenerative practices on commercial-scale grain farms.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.