Motivations, goals, and benefits associated with organic grain farming by producers in Iowa, U.S.

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Arbuckle, J. Gordon
Han, Guang
Arbuckle, J. Gordon
Grudens-Schuck, Nancy
Grudens-Schuck, Nancy
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Agricultural Education and StudiesSociology

The U.S. has the world’s largest organic food market. However, low domestic production and a low adoption rate of organic grain farming limit the overall development of this sector. Multiple organic stakeholders have called for a better understanding of cognitive and motivational aspects of farmers’ decision-making processes to help policymakers, agricultural scientists, and extension practitioners to work more effectively with farmers to explore and adopt organic grain production. This paper assesses farmers’ adoption motivations, long-term goals, and perceived benefits to examine the congruence between initial motivations, long-term goals, and current perceived benefits. We employed a sequential mixed-method approach that first interviewed organic farmers in Iowa, U.S. Then developed and administered a statewide survey for the organic farmers. Survey data were analyzed with confirmatory factor analysis, paired-samples t-tests, and heteroskedasticityrobust regression models. We identified five highly-rated motivations for farmers to adopt organic grain: 1) profitability, 2) personal safety, 3) natural resources stewardship, 4) consumers and public health, and 5) honor and tradition. We found organic farmers’ longterm goals are strongly orientated to both productivism and stewardship but less strongly oriented to civic-mindedness. This research assessed five areas of benefits associated with organic grain farming: 1) economic benefit, 2) addressed health concerns, 3) environmental natural resources, 4) values and beliefs validation, and 5) social benefit. This study found the benefits farmers experienced by adopting organic grain farming aligned with most of their original adoption motivations and long-term goals, except for serving the motivation of consumer and public health concerns. By understanding the relative importance of the roles that different types of motivations play in farmers’ decisions to adopt organic grain farming, policymakers and agricultural extension practitioners can strategically design effective policies and programs to encourage more U.S. farmers to consider raising organic grains to fulfill the market demand. Our findings deepen our understanding of how organic farmers synergizes the competing goal orientations into organic farming practices. This study also fills a gap in the literature that lacks understanding of farmers’ perceived benefits of organic farming after adoption. By examining the relationships among farmers’ adoption motivations, goal orientations, and adoption benefits, we can conclude that organic grain farming is working well for farmers, suggesting that further promotion and support for transition to organic grain farming is socially desirable.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Han, Guang, J. Gordon Arbuckle, and Nancy Grudens-Schuck. "Motivations, goals, and benefits associated with organic grain farming by producers in Iowa, US." Agricultural Systems 191 (2021): 103175. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2021.103175. Posted with permission.