Farmer and Landowner Decision-Making
Title: Understanding farmer and landowner decision-making and message preference concerning conservation practice adoption in the Clear Creek Watershed
Time Period: 2018-2019
Research Team: Megan M. Ruxton, Erin O. Heiden, Nahida Begum, and Mary E. Losch
Project Description: This study provides an in-depth understanding of decision-making around conservation practice adoption across four farmer types (owner-operators, tenant farmers, owner-tenants and non-operating landowners) in Johnson and Iowa Counties. It also identifies persuasive conservation messages for use with these groups when seeking to encourage adoption of conservation practices that will improve water quality. By providing a more nuanced view of how each of these groups view and prioritize conservation as part of their land management, project partners can better understand the on-farm decision-making process, use that to support the development of better messaging, and find ways to help farmers overcome barriers to implementation to increase the adoption of conservation practices in the Clear Creek watershed.
Based on the themes identified through 15 in-depth interviews, several recommendations for persuasive messaging are made. The overall recommendation is to use a multi-tiered style of messaging. Any successful persuasive messaging strategy will require targeting different aspects of conservation and utilizing different frames that will appeal to several different groups of individuals. A key aspect to messaging strategies is to understand that conservation is conceived of broadly by participants. It is understood as an ethic for care of the land: conservation and preservation of natural resources; keeping the land natural and original; and leaving the land better than you found it. It is also understood as specific practices, such as rotating crops, reducing soil erosion, and using the appropriate amount of chemicals and products. While practices in use by participants tended to address issues of soil health and stability, the concept of conservation as articulated by all 15 individuals included everything from keeping ditches mowed to crop rotation to soil testing, with many of these practices having been in place for several decades.
Publications: Ruxton, M. M., Heiden, E. O., Begum, N., & Losch, M. E.. (2019). Understanding farmer and landowner decision-making and message preference concerning conservation practice adoption in the Clear Creek Watershed. University of Northern Iowa, Center for Social and Behavioral Research.
Funders: Iowa Nutrient Research Center