are accustomed to spraying just“because I always spray.”So the conventional
view is one in which agrichemicals are a necessity in production, but the
organic view is that purchased inputs are only for specific situations that
may arise after all other means of control (crop rotation, bug picking or
vacuuming, extra tillage, etc.) are exhausted.
Attempting to develop methods for evaluating farm sustainability, re-
search can raise many interesting questions without coming to any conclu-
sions (Andreoli and Tellarini 2000). European efforts to develop assessment
strategies have included multiple criteria, such as farm performance, nat-
ural landscapes, environmental protection, and agricultural products. As
noted previously, other studies indicate that ecology, sociology, psychology,
and cultural geography must all be considered in evaluating an agricultural
landscape. Issues raised in this article seem a bit obvious: farms vary by type
and by the actions of the individual farm manager, and such complexities
must be considered when formulating rural policies.
Perhaps amore telling indication of agricultural sustainability is found in
a study that demonstrated how soil erosion could be drastically reduced and
pest management accomplished without the use of pesticides (Pimentel et
al. 1989b). Adaptive management that optimizes the biological and chemical
process within farms' agroecosystems was employed and high corn yields
were maintained while fossil fuel inputs were reduced by 50 percent. These
are significant results in terms of agricultural sustainability, and they imply
that future research into the application of organic methods is warranted.
While these farming landscape comparisons provide valuable informa-
tion on the crops and methods used in organic farming, we must also
ask: who is actually using these methods? Studying the farmers themselves
allows us to investigate various factors that influence the decision to adopt
organic methods, and we can identify the major barriers along their path.
Furthermore, we can obtain a more balanced and realistic view of the en-
tire agricultural system if we understand the individuals involved in these
important daily land management actions.
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PgEnds: T E X
Research methods are a key concern when seeking to describe and compare
farmers. How should information be gathered? A favorite social science
method is to mail out survey questionnaires and hope that farmers will fill
out the forms and send them back. These surveys usually contain specific
questions with little boxes to check “yes” or “no” or require that farmers
select only one response: A, B, C, or D. While this is neat and tidy for