Economic and Ecological Analyses of Farms and their Component Practices to Promote Crop Rotation and Cover Crop Systems
In conjunction with farmers and extension, we initiated a whole-farm analysis program to establish context for designing and interpreting on-farm component research. In addition to fulfilling this objective, during the course of the project, this effort evolved into a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency whole-farm planning process. Our approach included an analysis of farmers’ goals and knowledge, whole-farm nutrient cycles, farm cropping and rotation history and basic farm economics.
The project was initiated by conducting in-depth interviews with cooperating farm families representing a range of farm types and sizes to document their farm history, economic, environmental and quality of life goals and farm related issues and changes that were being implemented on each farm. We then developed farm-level nutrient and economic budgets, which integrated crop and livestock enterprises for the farms and helped farmers understand the connections between ecological processes and economics that result from their management and type of farm. These farm-level analyses provided context for developing specific questions and objectives and interpretation for state-wide, on-farm experiments and demonstrations.
Results from these activities have been presented at field days, workshops, focus group sessions, farmer-to-farmer mentoring and seminars. We have linked our activities in whole-farm planning (WFP) and analyses to state (Ohio State University Extension, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, NRCS and Farm Bureau) and regional efforts (Great Lakes Basin), which are currently underway to produce whole-farm planning tools for providing sustainable agriculture concepts and approaches to the mainstream farming community. North Central Region SARE 1997 Annual Report.