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Whole farm case studies and focus groups : participatory strategies for agricultural research and education programs

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Butler, Lorna Michael (main author), Murray, Helene (author), Murray: Coordinator, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN; Butler: Extension Anthropologist, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA
Journal article
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois Box: 97
Subject Term:
agricultural research, case studies, extension communication, extension programs, farming systems research, focus groups, on-farm research, participation, research methods, sustainability
search through journal, Research and extension personnel are beginning to look for new strategies to involve more farmers and the non-farm public in their programs. Two approaches we have used are whole farm case studies (WFCS) and focus groups. WFCS in Oregon and Washington led to several research and educational programming ideas that are currently being pursued in both states. A focus group to study water quality, nitrate leaching and farming practices in Skagit County, Washington is one outcome of the WFCS process. It is made up of 16 people, including farmers, university personnel, members of environmental groups, and government representatives. We review these two complementary participatory strategies for systems-oriented sustainable agriculture research and education programs. Both have been very useful for building problem-solving partnerships between the land-grant universities and agricultural and environmental constituents in our area. Noteworthy outcomes include: complementary applied on-farm and experiment station research; farming systems analysis; public education; new linkages with environmental and agricultural interest groups; additional grant funds to address identifies priority issues; and interdisciplinary teams that cut across the biological and social sciences and include diverse citizen representation. (original)