Agricultural Research and Alternative Farmers’ Information Needs
Research on sustainable agriculture is underfunded in the United States. Therefore, the topical relevance and the dissemination of this research must be carefully targeted to reach farmers. This paper investigates the actual linkages between local alternative farmers and the information dissemination efforts of publicly funded researchers who obtained grants from a federal/regional program. This analysis is based on a mail survey of twenty sustainable farmers in the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Society, fifty farmers in the Illinois Organic Crop Improvement Association, and forty-two researchers who received grant funding from the North Central Region of the USDA's (United States Department of Agriculture) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (USDA-SARE) program between 1988 and 1996. Appropriate statistical techniques were employed to analyze the relatively small sample sizes. Findings suggest that the local needs of farmers are not being met by the national and regional efforts of USDA-SARE, although sustainable farmers are somewhat more likely than organic farmers to receive publicly funded research information. Based on this survey research, the USDA should reconsider the focus and goals of its commitment to sustainable agricultural research.
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