Report on formation of a
North American Regional Division of the
Association for Farming Systems Research/Extension (AFSR/E)
TO: David Norman
FROM: Richard R. Harwood
Michigan State University
September 21, 1992
R. Harwood was asked by David Norman and George Axinn prior
to the September 13-18, 1992 12th annual symposium to facilitate
discussion during appropriate sessions of the symposium.
The discussions were open to all, without regard to AFSR/E
membership, country of residence or interest area. In all
sessions more than half of the participants were long-term AFSR/E
participants from North America (NA). Several student members
actively participated. Consensus was reached on most major
points, all of which were summarized on flip charts posted in the
discussion rooms. Reports were made to the assembled AFSR/E
global group. The process was open and highly participatory.
This summary deals with the several topics that were subject
of extensive discussion.
The need for NA organization
For 12 years U.S. institutions have coordinated annual
FS/AFSR/E symposia with global participation. The needs of North
American scientists were at least partially met through these
meetings, their published proceedings and the many publications
evolving from the AFSR/E network. The majority of AFSR/E members
have been North American. With the globalization of AFSR/E,
regional organizations are organizing and growing in their
activities. As the symposium leaves NA, and possibly convenes
less frequently, a vacuum is seen likely in NA without more
frequent and active involvement.
Secondly, the North American needs are not being adequately
addressed through global meetings. Global meetings are primarily
structured for interchange of ideas among active participants in
FSR/E. It is their only forum for doing so. They do not provide
a forum for education nor inclusion of those not actively working
and familiar with the voluminous literature. Such persons
wanting to learn of AFSR/E through participation in global
symposia become frustrated and are invariably dissatisfied with
the process. Global meetings cannot and will not meet these
needs at a global level, as they must serve a different purpose.
There is also a growing need to network more broadly with the
increasing number of organizations in NA that are using a systems
approach. Knowledge transfer and adaptation from the global
forum and between North American groups is essential to reduce
the current reinventing of the wheel.
North American needs for networking
*Educational at the university level
-provide contacts, materials for instruction
-orientation, training for graduate students
*Farmer groups, NGO information flow multidirectionall)
-many new farmer research groups forming
-NGOs have broad social mandates--will add dimensions to
*Provide a broad multidisciplinary forum--(not now available)
*Influence direction of NA research toward systems (help to add
momentum to systems research movement)
*Provide a purposeful blend of international and domestic (Much
discussion took place on this issue, but no consensus was
reached). AFSR/E (global) definitely does not have enough
North American coverage. Forum probably should be at least
half North American for 1993. The NA committee should
discuss and offer guidelines.
*The collaborative dimension should be broadened to include a
greater representation of farming systems-involved
institutions and disciplines.
*The AFSR/E/NA must be a stand-alone body, linked to societies
(disciplines) and groups, but not dominated by any single
discipline or philosophy.
Objectives for NA annual meeting and other activities
*Reach and include a broad NA constituency
*Encourage interaction among systems-oriented people
*Demonstrate what AFSR/E has to offer
*Document role and value of international-domestic
*Further participation in systems science
*Expand the horizons of AFSR/E by enhancing NA input
*Offer training-workshops on interdisciplinary approaches
*Create a systems mandate back to institutions
Form of NA organization
*Create an interim steering committee for 1993.
*Accept University of Florida offer to host a NA symposium
in October of 1993.
*For 1993--will not have stand-alone status, but will
operate as a Division of AFSR/E.
*Will not have dues-paying membership, but will encourage
continued paying of dues and maintaining individual
membership in AFSR/E (at least through October 1993).
*Have modest expansion of a NA mailing list, with mailings
(and communication costs) advanced by University of
Florida and covered as part of the registration fee for
the Fall 1993 symposium.
The following guidelines were set forth for an interim
steering committee: (to serve through October 1993)
*Chairperson should be from University of Florida
*At least half of membership be AFSR/E members
*Should represent range of disciplines
-NGO (ex-Rodale, Center for Rural Affairs)
-Centers for sustainable agriculture
-Countries: U.S., Canada, Mexico (if Mexico has
Membership (as nominated)
Anita Spring (Chairperson) accepted
Ray William accepted
Peter Hildebrand accepted
Chuck Francis not yet contacted
Josh Posner not yet contacted
Sandra Russo not yet contacted
Neal Flora not yet contacted
Adrian Johnson (Canada) accepted
Institute for Alternative Ag. person not yet contacted
Center for Rural Affairs person not yet contacted
Practical Farmers of lowa person
California farmer group (Liebhardt/UCD contact)
Florida Farm Bureau farmer
Possible contact in Mexico:
Dr. Herminio Navarro
Colegio De Postgraduados
Monticello, Mexico (for Mexican FSR network)
Charge to the Steering Committee
1. Make contacts to complete committee membership.
2. Continue the evolution of the NA organization, with
recommendations on structure, purpose and function to
the October 1993 symposium.
3. Provide strategic guidance for the 1993 symposium.
Provide input on structure, focal areas and
participation to a University of Florida-organized
4. Make recommendations and start contacts for a 1994
5. Confirm (or replace as desired by the committee) the
representative to the Global AFSR/E Board. Chris
Andrew was selected to represent NA for the September
18, 1992 Board meeting.
6. Assemble a NA mailing list (using the Michigan State
and Arizona lists as a starting point).
7. Survey NA members on interests and needs as deemed
8. Report to an assembled NA regional membership at the
October 1993 symposium.
Attendees at discussion sessions
(This list is not complete, as some individuals came in and
out or attended only briefly. It should not be implied that
every person endorses this entire report. There was much debate
on some issues. This report does represent broad consensus.)
Chris Andrew George Axinn John Caldwell
Michel Cavigelli Abby Eaton Tim Eisenbeis
Tim Finan Tim Frankenberger Barry Grace
Richard Harwood Peter Hildebrand Adrian Johnson
Sue Ellen Johnson Harold McArthur David Norman
Josh Posner Mike Powers Anita Spring
Lisette Staal Martha Tomechek John Weise
Stephan Weise Ray William