Principles Guiding Practice: A Case Study Analysis of the Principles of Sustainable Agriculture for Diverse Farms
AbstractEarly proponents of sustainable agriculture faced considerable resistance and initiated a long-lasting discussion over strategies for sustainable agriculture. This controversy has re-emerged recently in the discussion of agro-ecology versus sustainable intensification. Fourteen agricultural professionals participated in a guided discovery learning process on six agricultural operations in Florida that are considered to be good examples of sustainability. The six operations included large and small farms, organic and conventional farms, livestock and crop enterprises, and traditional and direct sales marketing approaches. The objective of the process was to identify the principles that the operators use to guide their specific management decisions, including decisions with economic, environmental, and social consequences. Participants studied information about each operation and created a set of questions to ask the manager(s) about the underlying philosophy and principles that guide the management and then spent one to six hours at each site. The information was analyzed in small groups after each visit, and a summative analysis was completed after all site visits were completed. Although these operations are very diverse in terms of characteristics like size, enterprise mix, farm capital, technologies used, marketing strategies, and manager experience, the study showed also similarities across the farms in the principles that guide their decision-making. From these principles, nine broad principles of sustainable agriculture were identified. Most contemporary theoretical concepts about social, economic, and environmental sustainability are reflected in the operating principles of these businesses.
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