LISA IMPACTS: Social, Economic, and Demographic Impacts of Low-Input/Sustainable Agriculture Practices on Farms and Rural Communities in the Northwest Area
Sustainable agriculture has become a topic of discussion as severe economic pressures on
farmers and rural communities and increased concern over the problems in the environment
have increased the focus on the potential of alternative agricultural techniques. Increasing use of
pesticides, loss of soil, vulnerability to shortages of nonrenewable resources, and the recent low
farm income have been noted as current agricultural problems.
1) Compare selected characteristics of farmers who have participated in low-input agriculture
projects with their neighbors who have not.
2) Analyze factors that affect the economic viability of LISA practices on farm/ranch operations.
3) Determine the impact of the adopters of LISA practices on the community through purchasing
and expenditure patterns and voluntary social involvements.
Paired comparisons were made between 34 LISA cooperators and 34 conventional operators.
LISA farmers were paired with non-LISA farmers to provide research controls and to allow for
comparisons of the two groups. The 34 LISA samples were drawn from a list of cooperators in
LISA research projects. The 34 from the conventional farmer group was drawn from a much
larger sample of sections from a panel survey by Leistritz et al. (1989). These non-LISA farms
were matched with the LISA farms based on size, soil type, and crop and livestock mix. The
farmers were approached in three stages by a preliminary letter, by phone, and by a mailed
The LISA farmers have expressed a desire to reduce reliance on external sources of energy and
inputs. The LISA farmers have lower interest and outside labor costs. They have disapproved
self-serving interests and emphasized long-term goals. Though many of the LISA farmers were
working off-farm, they worked as many hours on-farm as the non-LISA farmers. The LISA
farmers also stressed the dispersal of control of land and resources. The LISA farmers indicated
that every person should reduce their consumption of products so resources will last longer.
The community impacts of an increase in farmers practicing LISA agriculture should not be
negative, as the LISA farmers were involved in a variety of community organizations. The LISA
farmers paid more real estate taxes, owned more of the land they operated, and had smaller
farming operations on average than did their non-LISA neighbors.
Both the LISA project cooperators and their non-LISA, conventional neighbors felt that reliable
markets for alternative products and more information on the economics and agronomics of
alternative practices are needed to help farmers develop alternative farming systems. The LISA
farmers felt research-backed information on how to grow crops was important to help farmers
make this shift, while the conventional farmers felt that greater flexibility under government
farm programs to grow different crops without using base acreages of program crops would be