Date of Award
Master of Community and Regional Planning
Community and Regional Planning
Community and Regional Planning; Sustainable Agriculture
Prairie strips provides a wide range of soil and water quality benefits as well as habitats for wildlife. At just $28 to $39 per treated acre per year, coupled with eligibility to collect federal conservation payments, prairie strips are one of the most cost-effective best management practices (BMPs) available to Iowa farmers. Despite the ecological benefits and economic advantages, there are less than 70 collaborators who have adopted prairie strips in Iowa. Furthermore, as a relatively new conservation practice, there is a lack of research examining what factors encourage or deter Iowa farmers from adopting prairie strips. Therefore, using the 2018 Iowa Rural and Farm Life poll data, this study conducted quantitative analysis to identity what farmer or farm characteristics are associated with interest in prairie strips.
Out of the total of 11 farmer and farm characteristics explored, the following eight variables are positively associated with interest in prairie strips: (1) gross farm sales; (2) conservationist identity; (3) conservation ethics; (4) place attachment to the farmland; (5) opinion leadership; (6) willingness to innovate; (7) diversified operation of extended rotation; and (8) existing conservation practices. Of these, existing conservation practices and conservationist identity produced the strongest positive association. On the other hand, age, productivist identity, place attachment to friends, and prior knowledge about prairie strips practice are not significantly associated with interest in prairie strips. Interestingly, the only negative association discovered in this study is having a non-diversified operation with no intention to diversify in the future.
Additionally, this study presents three notable findings. First, those who expressed interest in learning about prairie strips and those who expressed interest in adopting the practice scored very similarly on comparison variable measurements. Second, on questions measuring interest in prairie strips, a natural grouping formed between the "Maybe" and "Yes" response groups. In other words, there were greater statistical differences between the "No" and "Maybe" and "No" and "Yes" response groups than between the "Maybe" and "Yes" groups. Third, those who expressed stronger sense of conservation ethics and positive environmental attitude at a more local geographic scale demonstrated higher interest in prairie strips.
Based on these findings, a low-hanging fruit to increase prairie strips adoption in Iowa is to focus education and outreach efforts to farmers who already have a BMP in place. Additionally, it would be worthwhile to expand outreach efforts to farmers who express their interest in prairie strips as a "Maybe." A mid-range recommendation to increase prairie strips adoption in Iowa is to build vibrant local agricultural networks that increases farmer-to-farmer interactions, especially between those who have implemented BMPs and who have not. Additionally, these agricultural networks should aim to increase a farmer's personal connection and commitment to their local community. Finally, a long-range policy goal should invest in fostering a conservationist identity in individuals and in the culture of the state of Iowa.
Yi, Grace, "Farmer and farm characteristics associated with interest in prairie strips in Iowa" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18073.