Group Title: proposal for a farming systems research and extension pilot project in Alachua County
Title: A proposal for a farming systems research and extension pilot project in Alachua County
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 Material Information
Title: A proposal for a farming systems research and extension pilot project in Alachua County
Series Title: proposal for a farming systems research and extension pilot project in Alachua County
Physical Description: 9 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Hildebrand, Peter E
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1980
Subject: Agricultural extension work -- Study and teaching -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Research -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Peter E. Hildebrand.
General Note: "April 1980."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080676
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 172992475

Full Text




April 1980



Support is sought for the initial phase of a Farming Systems Research

and Extension (FSR/E) pilot project in Alachua county to be implemented by

a multidisciplinary team of faculty and research assistants in cooperation

with the county extension service. The pilot project will include a survey

of farming systems in the county and the design and testing of improved

practices specifically oriented toward selected systems. A major objective

of the project is the determination of the applicability of the FSR/E ap-

proach in efforts to improve agricultural research and extension services

for small/low resource farmers. In the future the project will be extended

to other counties in subsequent stages.


Despite major changes in the structure of agricultural production in

the US in the past 50 years highlighted by the growth of large scale com-

mercial enterprises, the majority of farm units remain small. In Florida,

three out of four farms have gross sales of agricultural commodities of

less than $20,000 (US Census of Agriculture, 1974). Although the debate

as to what constitutes a small farm continues, the fact remains that there

are a significant number of small/low resource farmers for whom farming

continues to be an important source of income and employment.

Small/low resource farmers have generally not been effectively served

by agricultural research and extension programs. Real incomes from farm-

ing activities have probably declined in the past few decades. At the

same time, the spread of non farm employment to rural areas has made

it possible for many residents to maintain or improve income levels with-

out abandoning farming and moving to urban areas. Further, agricultural


land values have risen precipitously in many instances to levels which

bear little relationship to current agricultural production potential-

at least in terms of existing technology and the prices of output and

other (non land) inputs.

Given the changed circumstances, are there feasible and cost ef-

ficient approaches for agricultural research and extension programs to

serve small/low resource farmers? Some have argued against such efforts

on the grounds that i) nothing much can be done for this group and ii)

programs for such farmers divert resources from activities servicing com-

mercial agricultural enterprises that have greater potential returns, at

least in terms of agricultural production. These arguments together with

strong operational linkages amongst government agencies, agricultural re-

search and extension programs and commercial farmers have resulted in the

orientation of nearly all agricultural research and activities toward

meeting the needs of the commercial farm sector. This situation is un-

likely to change in the short run. However, energy shortages and environ-

mental concerns are forcing a major reappraisal of the assumptions under-

lying much of the technological progress in agriculture during the past

50 years. This reappraisal could dramatically affect the nature of US

farming systems in the future, specifically in the areas of scale of

operations and mix of enterprises. Further, these developments could

have important implications for the viability and competitive position

of small farm operations for a broad range of commodities.

The tasks of i) identifying which groups) of small/low resource

farmers can be effectively served by improved agricultural services and

ii) designing specific programs for these farmers are well suited for

use of the farming systems research and extension approach (FSR/E).

FSR/E utilizes multidisciplinary teams of agricultural scientists and

social scientists to diagnose existing farming systems and subsequently

to design, test and initiate improvement programs. FSR/E is currently

being practiced in a growing number of developing countries with promising

results. It is proposed to apply FSR/E to the problems of small/low re-

source farmers in Florida with an initial focus on Alachua county. The

pilot project represents part of a general effort to develop the University

of Florida as a center for training and research in Farming Systems Research/Extensiol

to serve both domestic and international agricultural development efforts

(see attachment A).

Description of Project

The FSR/E project in Alachua county will build upon the results of a

course in FSR/E methodology which will take place during the spring term.

The course will involve student and faculty teams analyzing one or more

types of farming systems and designing improvement programs. The precise

focus of the pilot project which commences during the summer will be

strongly influenced by the progress and results achieved by the course

participants. Specifically, if good prospects for improvement programs

emerge from the spring course, a high priority will be placed on the test-

ing (or at least arranging for the testing) of the recommendations.

Given the rather stringent time and resource limitations associated

with the spring course, the coverage of small/low resource farmers in the

county is likely to be quite limited, probably involving no more than two

types of farming systems and/or areas within the county. The pilot project

commencing during the summer will seek to identify the range of farming

systems found in the county. Particular attention will be given to the mix

of farm and non-farm enterprises and income sources. One purpose will

simply be to obtain some idea of the relative importance of various types

of systems in terms of acreage and numbers of farmers. Secondly, an effort;

will be made to identify those types of farming systems which appear to be

in the best position to benefit from improved agricultural research and

extension efforts. Many small farmers have full or part time off farm jobs;

possess little land; and have limited access to capital. The stringent nature

of the constraints they face may appear to severely limit the scope for

improvements in farming practices. However, the FSR/E approach can assist in

identifying types of farming systems and parts of systems which have

sufficient flexibility to accommodate changes in practices or even the

mix of enterprises.

The central focus of project activities will be the application of

the FSR/E approach to one or more groups of small/low resource farmers in

the county. Multidisciplinary teams composed of students and faculty will

work closely with farmers and extension agents in the following sequence

of activities:

1. Describe and analyze the existing situation with the purpose of defining

the goals, resources and constraints of farmers;

2. Design improved practices based on the existing systems and available


3. Test and evaluate improved practices in farmers' fields and under farmer


4. Extend and monitor practices which are acceptable to farmers.

Understanding the logic behind the existing farming systems and the

direct involvement of farmers themselves in all stages of the process are key

features of FSR/E. This need not and should not involve lengthy investigations

which take years or even several months to produce tangible results. The

initial descriptive stage need take no more than a few weeks and should be

linked directly and immediately with the design stage. Design work, in

turn, will seek initially to identify those innovations/improvements which

are readily available and can be easily integrated into the existing farming

system with little modification. Other improvements will require further

development by researchers. In this fashion FSR/E may assist in defining

research problems and priorities. Some adaptation and design work may

take place in the course of farm level testing of the initial group of

improved practices as farmers, extension workers and the research team

critically examine the progress of the tests themselves. Finally, the

extension phase begins even before the farm level testing of the initial

group of proposed practices has been completed. Participating farmers will

have already adopted the practices to be extended (a requirement for extension)

and may have communicated the results to their neighbors.

Thus, FSR/E is designed not only to improve the quality of agricultural

research and extension efforts through a sequence of problem identification

and solution design and testing, but at the same time to be carried out

quickly and at a fairly modest cost.

The project will make use of available data, including the agricultural

census, in identifying the range of farming systems in the county. Although

individual census questionnaires are not available to the public, the census

office of the USDA is willing to make special computer runs on request.

Additional information on farmers in Alachua County will be obtained from

previous surveys. A questionnaire was sent out early in 1980 by the County

Extension Office, and a survey of small farmers was directed by Paul Doughty

of the Anthropology Department during the spring of 1979.

Existing information on farming activities will be complemented by a

section by section survey in rural areas to obtain a complete list of farmers

in the county. It is hypothesized that several small farmers, in particular,

may not have been included in the Agricultural Census, which the survey

should determine and rectify. The survey will utilize a very brief questionnaire

designed to determine the mix and relative importance of various farm and non

farm enterprises for each respondant which can be administered in approximately

10 minutes.

The principal justification for the county-wide survey is related to

its potential utility to future extension activities. A major finding of

the Doughty survey is that there are a significant number of farmers in

the county who have no contacts with either research or extension programs.

Another large group of farmers take advantage of their proximity to and

connections with the University of obtain information directly from researchers-

something which is not feasible for farmers in most areas of the state.

If the extension service desires to reach farmers who are totally or

partially "out of the system," it must first know who and where they are and

the nature of their farming systems. This information is especially critical

if research and extension activities are to be increasingly oriented toward

types of farming systems--as is explicitly the case with FSR/E--rather than

simply along traditional commodity and disciplinary lines.

Special attention will be given to cost-and time-efficient means of

locating and categorizing farmers, on the one hand, and applying the FSR/E

approach, on the other, since the capacity to generate reasonably accurate

results quickly and inexpensively is vital to the acceptability of FSR/E.

Expected Results From the Pilot Project

The success of FSR/E will be measured by the extent to which the effort

benefits a substantial number of small/low resource farmers. It is planned

to extend activities to selected other counties by 1981. Additional output
from the project will include:

1) Report on Farming Systems in Alachua County: The report which will be

based on the review of existing data and the results of county-wide survey

will include a) distinguishing features (mix of enterprises, importance of

non farm activities, etc.); b) relative importance of different systems in

terms of numbers of units and acreage; and c) past changes and current trends

in agricultural activities in the county. The report is intended to be used

as background information for researchers and extension agents wishing to

utilize a farming systems orientation in their work. The report should also

serve as a starting point for further FSR/E activities with farming systems

in the county not initially covered in the pilot project.

2) Directory of Farmers in Alachua County: The directory will include

names, addresses and mix of enterprises and will serve as an aid to extension


3) Testing Recommendations for Improvements in the Selected Farming Systems:

A group report containing recommendations will be a principal product in the

spring course on FSR/E methodology. This report will be revised, if required,

and the farm testing process initiated. The specific arrangements for testing

and the timing will depend on the practices and commodities involved. It may

be necessary to wait until Fall 1980 or Spring 1981 to commence testing in

some instances. A progress report on the testing activities will be prepared

by December 1980.

4) Critical Review of FSR/E Methodology: A major question in the pilot

project is the applicability of FSR/E to problems of small farm production

in Florida. Some modifications in methodology are to be expected. The

project should facilitate a testing of procedures, including time and re-

sources required, with a view to improving overall efficiency.

5) Experience in FSR/E Methods: The project will afford participating

faculty, students and extension agents an opportunity to gain field experience

in FSR/E.

Project Personnel

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team of faculty

and studentsin cooperation with the county extension service. Participating

faculty include:

1. Art Hansen, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Project Coordinator)

2. Elon Gilbert, Visiting Professor, Food and Resource Economics

(Project Coordinator)

3. Gary Brinen, Vegetable Crops Extension Specialist, Alachua County

Extension Office

4. Masuma Downie, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Education

5. Peter Hildebrand, Visiting Professor, Food and Resource Economics

6. David Knauft, Assistant Professor, Agronomy

7. Steve Kostewicz, Associate Professor, Vegetable Crops

8, Jon van Blokland, Assistant Professor, Food and Resource Economics

Dr. Hansen will devote full time to the project during the three month

period beginning in mid June. He has received a grant from the University

(Seed Grant) to support his participation. Dr. Gilbert will serve halftime

on the project during the same period. Dr. Downie will be working full time

on a closely related research project on the role of women in small farm

families in the county with support from the National Science Foundation.

Other faculty will devote up to a.quarter time each to the project.

The project will require the services of four graduate research assistants

for the field work and a secretary (all full time equivalent). At least

one research assistant should come from each of the following fields: 1)

Vegetable Crops, Agronomy, or Animal Science; 2) Food and Resource Economics;

and Anthropology or Rural Sociology. The equivalent of three full time

graduate assistants will work together as the FSR/E field team to analyze

one or more existing farming systems and design and test improved

practices. One full time research assistant will be responsible for the

county-wide survey. An effort will be made to utilize existing secretarial

services available through participating departments and to include at

least one graduate assistant with secretarial experience. However, a

significant amount of secretarial time will be required to transcribe field


Project Budget

Support totaling $14,000is requested to cover the project activities

during the summer (See Attachment B for detailed budget). Support is

required for 1) four research assistants (full time equivalent); 2) full

time secretary/research assistant; 3) travel expenses; and 4) miscellaneous

supplies and services (special computer analysis of 1974 Agricultural Census

for Alachua County; publications; photocopying, stationary, Etc.).

During the summer a larger project proposal will be prepared covering

the continuation of the project in Alachua county and extension of FSR/E

activities to selected other counties. The proposal will be submitted to

various funding sources (internal and external) for consideration.

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