Seeding a Resilient Palouse through Participatory Action Research with Farmers
Crop diversity has been promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a way to increase the resilience of agricultural systems. For instance, the USDA offers payments to farmers who plant cover crops (plants that provide cover on cropland between seasons for traditional cash crops). Yet little is known about (a) the extent to which farmers see cover crops as contributing to a resilient operation or region, and (b) the most effective policy options to promote cover crop adoption. This research will increase the practical and theoretical understanding of agricultural resilience as it relates to cover crop adoption in the Palouse Region of the U.S. Agriculture is a principle industry in the region, yet the Palouse is also prone to drought, which may increase under predicted climate changes. I will conduct qualitative social science research using focus groups and interviews with farmers in Whitman County, WA in order to answer the following questions: (1) How do farmers define a resilient farming system, at the individual farm level, and at the regional level? (2) To what extent, and in what ways, do cover crops contribute to farmers’ conception of their operation as resilient? (3) What factors contribute to farmers’ relative support for a variety of public interventions aimed at cover crop promotion? The proposed research will provide participant-generated perspectives and actionable recommendations for increasing resilience and cover crop implementation. Project results will contribute to a journal article, a Master’s thesis, a stakeholder report, and a grant proposal to the USDA.