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 Diagram 1. Organization of North...
 Diagram 2. Organization of North...

Title: Review of the North Florida Farming Systems Research and Extension Project
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00093153/00001
 Material Information
Title: Review of the North Florida Farming Systems Research and Extension Project
Series Title: Review of the North Florida Farming Systems Research and Extension Project
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Dierolf, Thomas S.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00093153
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Table of Contents
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    Diagram 1. Organization of North Florida farming systems research and extension program, 1981-82
        Page 19
    Diagram 2. Organization of North Florida farming systems research and extension program, 1984
        Page 20
Full Text




by Thomas S. Dierolf
for AOG 4932
June 15,1984

The following report on the North Florida Farming Systems

Research and Extension Program (NF FSR/E) is essentially divided

into two sections. The first section deals with the evolution of

the NF FSR/E. Information for this section was gathered from

reportsreviewsand a yet to be published synthesis on the

project. Personal communications were used to clarify some of the

more complex interactions. Hence, what results is a summary of

the history of the NF FSR/E project directed toward persons less

than familiar with the project.

The second section presents the findings of several

conversations conducted with past and present project members.

These people ranged from upper level administrators to graduate

students working in the field. This section may be of more

interest to persons already familiar with the project but willing

to read what someone has to say about it.

My involvement with the project dates back to August,1983

when I began working on my Masters in Soil Science. Due to an

interest in' agricultural development I started attending the

biweekly meetings of the team. With help from the team, I set up

some liming trials around the end of October. My funding came

from the Soil Science Department and I was rarely called upon to

help somebody else on the team. I can therefore consider myself

an outsider who happens to have a foot in the door. Up until

recently I didn't really have a good grasp of what was taking

place or why. During and after attending Dr. Hildebrands class on

FSR/E methodology I began to understand more of what was

occurring. But I also felt that what was supposed to occur and

what was happening were two different things. Then in the summer

of 1984 I took Dr. Waughs class on managing FSR/E. One of the

requirements of the class was a term paper on some program or

institution and the administration and management of the same.

The North Florida Project seemed like the perfect topic since I

was somewhat involved,and it would provide an opportunity for me

to learn more about it.

Because I came in during the middle of the project I don't

have the same perspective as does someone who has been with the

program since its inception. Some of the disadvantages of this

are that a person new to a project doesn't have an in depth

knowledge of the daily events that shaped the project. Thus much

of what he can gather is superficial as when presented in

periodic reports or memos, or is by word of mouth,which may be

biased or even inaccurate. The advantage of this is that I can

take a more objective view of the project. It was commented to me

a couple of times, that I shouldn't be afraid to be critical.

Unfortunately some people might take it upon themselves to over

criticize and deride everything.

I used as my sources letters,memos, and reports found in the

projects files. I also talked to several peopleeight in all, who

were or are involved with the project in one facet or another.

Their positions ranged from a top level administrator to students

who had worked on their research with the project. The interviews

were conducted in a "sondeo" type approach. I had certain

objectives but at the same time the interview was allowed some

latitude as determined by the interviewee and what he felt like

discussing. As I talked to more people I began to direct the

questions to more specific topics which I felt were pertinent to

answer some of my questions.

A side note is that a problem sometimes encountered when a

survey is being conducted of farmers in a particular region also

occurred in the interviews. Farmers will sometimes that they are

not the ones to talk to. They will tell you to go up the road a

ways and talk to Farmer Smith who grows a lot of corn. Now he's

the man you want to talk to. I was told the same thing and had to

convince them they were the ones I wanted to talk to and not

Farmer Jones.

The North Florida Research and Extension Project (NF FSR/EO

is a domestic program attempting to employ the farming systems

research and extension approach. It is arguably, the first

domestic application of a approach that was initially developed

overseas. Now in its fourth yearsignificant differences are

apparent between it and the model overseas programs. Farming

systems research and extension is a generic term describing an

approach toward solving a problem. The feeling has been that

current methods of research and extension can be improved upon.

Instead of coming up with a drastically different method of

research and extension, the farming systems methodology offers a

stepwise approach to solving the problems of agricultural

development. The final product can most likely be obtained via

several different routes.

Getting an institution such as the Institute of Food and

Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to accept the farming systems

approach is usually no easy matter. An initial interest inside

the institution to adopt this approach to research and extension

will probably help expedite matters. Three separate examples are

discernable at the University of Florida (UF) and IFAS that

supported this interest.

Firstthe UF has a long history of international

involvement. More recently this was emphasized in the

"Proposal for a Title XII University Formula Strengthening

Grant". Where President Marston and Vice-President of

Agricultural Affairs Dr. Tefertiller both stressed the

commitment of the UF to international studies and


Second, some people inside the institution who were

trying to promote the farming systems approach. Dr. Chris

Andrew of International Programs helped initiate the drive

for FRS/E at UF. He has had international experience and

was familiar with-FSR/E.

And third, some people were receptive to ideas

improving upon the current system of research and

extension. It helps when these people hold important

positions such as the Dean of Extension, Dr. John Woeste.

Once initial support within the institution had been

identified the next step was to promote additional support. The

additional support was generally speaking in the form of:

I/ Backing by other faculty and departments in

IFAS,since this was

ultimately to become a way of thinking in the way

IFAS carries out its functions.

2/ Funding was needed to help initate any projects.

Dr. Peter Hildebrand was brought to UF in 1979 and given the

responsibility of designing a program in FSR/E Initially the

approach had been used only in the developing countries. Because

of its success in working with limited resource farms in

developing countries, it was proposed to initiate a pilot program

in Florida. In January, 1980, a white paper was prepared entitled

"Addressing Florida's Emerging Farm Problem Through Farming

Systems Research and Extension. This report describes the urgency

for the UF to initiate an FSR/E program to beat the competition

for funds from donor agenciessuch as USAID. To help build

credibility in the approach they suggested that farming systems

research and extension work be conducted in northwest Florida

where several parts of the approach were already being put into

use. Some courses, Hildebrands course in FSR/E methodology being

one of them, were to be offered as a core for interested

students. To facilitate interchange of faculty, methodology,and

technologies between domestic and international components they

also stressed the need for participation in international


This planning was carried out with the stipulation that this

was to be a long term project. They felt it should not be

initiated unless there was enough interest. It was also noted

that when working with this approach farmers will make certain

financial commitments, such that projects should not be

terminated until results usable by the client were produced.

Then a couple of months later in March,1980 a paper entitled

"Program in Farming Systems Research and Extension" expounded on

the fact that UF had sufficient resources for successful

participation in FSR/E, among these are:

1/ IFAS possess some 900 senior faculty of which

about 300 have signifi- cant international experience.

There are also scientists in other departments with

relevant international and agricultural expertise and


2/ UF and its research centers are located in a

subtropical zone with climatic conditions similar to those

of many developing countries. Thus much of the research

experience is directly or closely relevant to the problems

of agricultural development in developing tropical


3/ The large variety of agriculture in Florida

provides for a wide array of concentrated expertise that

is practically unique to the U.S.

In May of 1980 the FRED department produced another report

which was ostensibly a revision of their philosophy and a

statement of the international program needs of the various IFAS

units. The major points included:

1/ International and domestic programs should be


2/ They should be aimed toward long-term continuous

work with respect to to foreign countries.

3/ They should be directed toward situations where we

are in a position to provide effective leadership or where

we are in a position to readily develop a leadership role,


4/ Priorities should be given to tropical and

subtropical areas of the world.

They then outlined a program for the development of an FSR/E

project at the UF. It would consist of three main components:


To consist of one or more operating FSR/E teams

in Research Centers of the University working on

problems of small farmers and on the emerging

problems related to energy,water, and other scarce

resource use on larger commercial farms as well.


To be located in Gainesville and responsible for:

1/ Supporting research and graduate training


2/ Short courses for training of U.S. and

foreign administrative and program planning personnel

in techniques and usage of FSR/E.

3/ Consultancy service involving UF faculty with

experience in farming systems.


1/ Operational FSR/E projects in several

countries utilizing faculty and graduate students.

2/ Network of courses related to FSR/E taught in

Latin America and Africa.

The previously mentioned papers present the initial stages

of gathering support for the project by showing the need for a

farming systems approach and by outlining the organization and

objectives of a program. The next notable occurance was the

acceptance of the proposed project by the department heads of

FREAgronomy,and Vegetable Crops. In June,1980 they sent a formal

memorandum to Vice-President Tefertiller,and the Deans of

Extension and Research. This was a conditional acceptance because

they wanted assurance that there would be long-term funding for

the program from sources outside their already tightly budgeted


With this support gathered behind him, Dr. Hildebrand

expanded upon the objectives of a domestic program in "Strategy

for Developing a Farming Systems Research and Extension Program

in IFAS." These being:

1/ To determine the appropriateness of FSR/E

methodology to help solve problems of small, limited

resource farmers under Florida and U.S. agricultural

conditions. Also to see if there are enough left-behind

farmers so that the methodology can be cost effective.

Left-behind farmers were described as those not able to

adopt a new technology because it is not appropriate to

his conditions. By working with these farmers it is

believed new technologies will be generated that can be

used by them.

2/ To the extent the methodology can be changed to

fit domestic conditions or improved for foreign

location,modify the FSR/E procedure to make it more


3/ Through technology generation or

modificationshelp left-behind farmers improve their farm

operation by means fitting within their resource

constraints and the available or modifiable


In this paper he also includes the programming schedule for the

domestic project along with the statement this all of this is

dependent on obtaining funding for the field team.

Then in the Fall of 1980, the USDA approved funding for

three years starting in March ,1981. Then the project,which had

S-1 -

all along been doing some work in Alachua County,shifted its

attention to the North Florida region.

Initially the North Florida Farming Systems Research and

Extension Program was organized so that the UF was the center of

the project. One of the goals was to move the project into the

counties in which it was working. An examination of the past four

years shows this change occurring.

Diagrams 1 and 2 show the organizational structure of the NF

FSR/E project in 1981-82 and 1984 respectively. A comparison of

them shows the following differences:

1/ International Programs no longer has any official

administrative ties with the project. They were important

in the initiation of the project but have since moved out

to aid in the institutionalization of FSR/E. They still

contribute occasional support through the FSSP.

2/ Dr. Hildebrands involvement is now minimal if not

nonexistent. This is due to his greater participation in

the Farming Systems Support Project (FSSP).

3/ The budget is now administered through the

Agronomy Department.

4/ Dr. French has taken over as team leader.

5/ Dr. Swisher is now a multi-county agent. This move

has helped to integrate the extension service into the

project. Prior to this,there was little input from the

county agents into the teams efforts.

6/ Collaborating scientists now have input into

on-farm trials as well as on-station trials.

Under IFAS administration there was an advisory committee

consisting of Chris Andrew in International Programs, F.A. Wood

the Dean of Research, and John Woeste the Dean of Extension. As

stated earlier International Programs involvement was initially

to attract personnel and funding. There was support for the

project particularly from the Dean of Extension. But yet there

was little interaction at that time with the county extension

department. This didn't occur until 1983, when the county

extension directors and agents started to play a larger part

providing inputs in the decision making process. The opposite was

true for the research branch where the methodology was initiated

at the team level and had to work its way up through departmental


In the 1984 organization chart it can be seen that

International Programs no longer is officially linked

administratively to the North Florida Project. This was a step

toward institutionalization of the project. Informal contacts are

still maintained between International Programs and the Research

and Extension branches.

Hildebrand also moved out of the picture pretty much in

1982-83 and Tito French became the team leader. Budgets for the

project were eventually administered through the Agronomy

Department. This move was made due to the increased ability of

Agronomy to administer the budget than FRE. These changes, I

believe were in part responsible for the gravitation of the team


to concentrate more on the agronomic aspects and put less

emphasis on economics.

Overall, two general observations can be seen signifying an

evolution is taking place. First, there has been a shift from an

administrative center at UF to one at Live Oak. Second, the

systems approach has taken a foothold in IFAS in that

interdepartmental faculty are involved and the extension service

is increasing their participation.

In the summer of 1983 when the NF FSR/E project was having

its annual review and planning session a four member team was

invited by IFAS to review the project. The review lasted for one

week and entailed interviews with staff and administrative people

along with participating in the review sessions with project

members,administrative peopleand University staff members. The

review team came up with several recommendations:

1/ The NF FSR/E should continue since it had achieved

certain results and attained a level of credibility.

2/ Since FSR/E is more of a concept than it is a

substantive program there should be more participation

from discipline oriented faculty in FSR/E activities.

3/ The FSR/E needs an institutional home, a minimum

structure and legitimacy.

4/ Appropriate linkages need to be established

between the program and other activities in IFAS with

characteristics similar to FSR/E.

5/ An expansion program is needed.

The review team came up with four suggestions regarding

possible administrative homes for the NF FSR/E.

1/ The Agricultural Research Centers would serve as

the base from where joint research and extension planning

would take place. The NF FSR/E seems to be heading in this


2/ A high level unit such as the Center for Rural

Development could serve as the administrative home.

Planning would still be regionalized.

3/ Research or extension would have the

responsibility for the systems approach.

4/ To appoint a joint research/extension coordinator

for on-farm technology to work under the director of

Research and Extensionwho would do the the FSR/E

coordination. Thre objective of this approach would be the

avoidance of a program but still achieve the

institutionalization of a systems mode of action.

The review team suggests that expansion can occur in either

of two ways. They could either expand around the original area

where there are similar farming conditions. The other alternative

would be to take the team to a new area to work. Before this can

be done, I feel, the current project must be established well

enough so that new personnel can fill the vacated positions. They

also state that the present FSR/E project would have been more

efficient with more support personnel especially in support of

field work. Once information has been gathered and basic skills

gained the team can continue updating technologies with less

effort and it should be possible-to reduce the team size, without

completely abandoning an area.

In. my opinion it appears that the people who play the

largest role in the project, i.e. the decision makers,are th~ ones

most satisfied with its progress. The ones least satisfied ;ere

the students and technicians,i.e. the ones feeling that they tad

very little or no input into the decision making. To almost every

viewpoint expressing one side there seemed to be an opposing one

that was just as reasonable. For example in regards to the lack

of an agricultural economist on the team. Some responded that

there have always been students doing their thesis work in FRED

thus economists have always been linked with the project. Yet the

response was that they weren't doing what could be termed

entirely as farming systems work. The review team also realized

that this was a major missing element. This matter seems to have

been resolved. An extension agent, in farm management, is expected

to join the team shortly. This is another indication of the

institutionalization of the approach, where the extension service

is (I expect) providing the furds.

The dissatisfaction is most noticable from the graduate

students involved with the project. The decision makers are more

Although the training of researchers and graduate students

is originally a part of the International FSR/E Center component

I feel the North Florida Project provides an excellent practical

training ground. It has been exactly that since its inception but

it has been neglecting the students as of late. The students

involved with the project since its earlier days are now gone.

The agricultural economists that came because of Dr. Hildebrands

involvement are no longer coming since he has been devoting his

attention to the FSSP. Other student economists may be reluctant

to join because of the projects past history of turning them into

agronomists. Now with the present shift of the project to Live

Oak it will become even more difficult to involve students at a

thesis or dissertation level.-An excellent suggestion was made to

have students live in Live Oak for six months as an internship.

Another consideration would be to have .some means of

allowing these new students to study the history,and current

focus of the project. Another suggestion was made to make it

mandatory for these students to read the synthesis of the NF

FSR/E. Other documents should also be made available to provide

information to new students. Because as the project moves along

the current publications will be out of date.

Finally there must be a concentrated effort to identify

sources of students whose interests might be beneficial to the

project and vice versa.

The training of students is essential if the farming systems

approach is is be adopted worldwide. It is these students that

will be more open to the new approach since they haven't been yet

concerned with the project as a whole. Its institutionalization

and its affect on the clientele in the area. The students, while

not ignoring the process as a wholeseemed to be more concerned

with their particular project. A common complaint is that they

are often required to do so much work involving projects other

than their own that they don't have sufficient time to devote to

their own work. The students in FRED who were supposed to be

concerned with the economic and management aspects found

themselves performing agronomic work. I heard the phrase "farming

systems work in the NF FSR/E project means economists are doing

agronomic work" repeated by more than one student economist.

Somewhat related to this is the complaint that the project

at the field level is not managed as efficiently as it could be.

A couple of factors discussed were; that the distance from UF to

the project area complicated logistical handling, and that it was

due to less than adequate managerial ability in the team.

As mentioned before there was a tendency to concentrate more

on the agronomic aspects. I also mentioned that I felt that was

due in part to a few organizational changes where the team ended

up basically consisting of two people in charge of making the

major decisions. The most notable constraint identified to FSR/E

,not only by the current team members but since before the

project even got off the ground is related to the institution

itself. There is not an adequate reward system regarding tenure

and promotion of faculty to provide incentive for them to work in

an FSR/E mode. Researchers may thus concentrate on producing

experiments worthy of journal publication but which are not in

keeping with FSR/E.

been indoctrinated to the traditional approach to research and

extension. By improving their training here it can only serve to

help them when they themselves become professionals.


Dean,C.E.,Maynard,D., and Polopulus,P. 1980. Minimum

requirements for initiating a farming systems research and

extension (FSR/E) program at the University of Florida.

Memorandum to K.R. Tefertiller,Deans Woeste,Wood,and

Spinks. IFAS,University of Florida.

Food and Resource Economics Department. 1980. Future

international programs involvement of the Food and

Resource Economics Department. Food and Resource Economics

Department, University of Florida.

Hildebrand,P.E. 1980. Strategy for developing a farming

systems research and extension (FSR/E) program. Food and

Resource Economics DepartmentUniversity of Florida.

IFAS International Faculty and Center for Tropical

Agriculture. 1980. Addressing Florida's emerging farm

problems through farming systems research and extension.

IFAS,University of Florida.

SchmidtD.L. 1984. Synthesis of North Florida Farming

Systems Program, IFAS, University of Florida. Department

of Food and Resource Economics, University of Florida.

Team for the Evaluation of the North Florida Farming

Systems Research and Extension Project. 1983. Report of

the team for the evaluation of the North Florida farming

systems research and extension project. Submitted to the

Director, IFAS, University of Florida.

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