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SWEEP Report #5

Survey of Southwestern Ontario Farmers for
the Evaluation of SWEEP

Ronald B. Compton, The ARA Consulting Group Inc. formerly The DPA Group Inc., Toronto, Ontario

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report  [114 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research



List By Number | List By Sub-Program

Completed: June, 1988

Key Words:

program evaluation, questionnaire, survey, SWEEP, awareness, soil quality, water quality, conservation ethic

Executive Summary

The survey results indicate that decisions regarding a change in farm management planning are based on economics. Section 3.3.4 indicates that the farmer is concerned about how a change in conservation practices will make his operation more efficient and profitable. Question 33 asked whether or not farm managers considered soil and water quality conservation issues when planning their budget for a new year. Only 31 percent of respondents indicated that they did, while 54 percent stated that they made no budget allowances for conservation practices. However, these figures could be misleading because many of the respondents already were using some conservation practices and did not feel that they could afford to make further financial sacrifices. Some of the farmers who answered no indicated that such considerations were beyond their current financial means. These respondents did consider soil and water quality conservation issues when planning, but clearly felt that economics was the current priority. Therefore, we believe more farmers consider management practices in their budget then the responses to question 33 would indicate.

Another management planning issue concerns conservation practices used by the farmer on leased land. Thirty-three percent of the farmers surveyed indicate that part or all of their farm is rented. However, of these farmers who use rented land, only 51 percent indicate that their landlord is interested in soil and water conservation issues and 32 percent of these landlords have actually invested money in conservation practices. While 72 percent of the farmers surveyed take the same approach in considering conservation practices for rented land as they do for their own property, only 10 percent stated that they are obligated to use soil and water conservation practices in their lease agreement. For 54 percent of the renting farmers, the length of their lease is one year. Many farmers have indicated in their comments (see Appendix C) that conservation practices are not profitable on rented land because of the short length of the lease. Therefore, this would indicate that management planning for land that is continually leased on a short term basis may be less oriented to the use of conservation practices.

In summary, the analysis indicates that there is a wide prevalence of the conservation ethic in southwestern Ontario. Farmers are aware and concerned over the impacts of soil and water quality problems both on their own farms and the general environment. Soil erosion, run-off, and compaction are of particular concern among southwestern Ontario farmers. Furthermore, survey respondents are responsive to these soil and water quality concerns; the survey indicates not only that most farmers currently use conservation practices on their farms but also a willingness to adopt new conservation techniques. Barriers to implementing conservation practices on farms are based on economics, and reflect not only a lack of money and time to improve their land practices but also an uncertainty of how the change will affect the profitability of the farm.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

The purpose of the study was to determine from the farmers of the SWEEP area: their level of awareness regarding soil and water quality issues, attitudes towards conservation and the extent of the conservation ethic.

A questionnaire was mailed to 1,196 farms representative of the enterprise mix and income levels of the 13 counties in the SWEEP area in 1987. A response rate of 20% or 241 farmers replied to the 7 page questionnaire. The questionnaire had two sections: one on the applicant's demographic and farm information and the second asked questions regarding attitudes, knowledge and perceptions.

Data analyses were rather simple. Most multiple response and likert scale information was presented in terms of the percentage of responses. Qualitative responses were listed in the reports appendix. Multivariate analyses were not conducted due to a lack of 'in-depth' information from each applicant.

The results suggest an inherent stewardship ethic with survey respondents. The respondents to this survey were aware and concerned about soil and water quality problems on their farms. Soil erosion and compaction were noted concerns mentioned by most respondents. Most farmers are trying to address these problems with conservation practices such as crop rotation, tile drainage and windbreaks. Fewer were practising conservation tillage, no-till or had erosion control structures. Farmers consider soil and water problems in their farm planning but find that barriers to change, particularly financial, prevent them from effectively addressing the problems.


The investigators are forthcoming with the limitations of mailed questionnaires. Mailed questionnaires are not designed for in-depth case study work: the interpretation of multivariate analyses based on questionnaire data is limited. Further, questionnaires are answered mostly by those with special interest in the topic area or by those with something to say: this makes extrapolation of the results questionable. Moreover, this was considered a baseline study, with full intentions to re-survey after SWEEP is finished. Considering the limitations of this instrument together with the fact it would be difficult to attain objectivity, randomness and a comparable group - it is questionable why this instrument was chosen for this purpose.

The investigators do, however, recognize the limitations of this form of study and provide helpful insight and verifications regarding the attitudes and perceptions of some SWEEP area farmers.


Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

  • SWEEP Report #0 - Cropping, Tillage and Land Management Practices in Southwestern Ontario 1986
  • SWEEP Report #6 - A Survey of Crop Residue In Southwestern Ontario 1987
  • SWEEP Report #8 - Social Structure and the Choice of Cropping Technology: Influence of Personal Networks on the Decision to Adopt Conservation Tillage
  • SWEEP Report #9 - Conservation Practices in Southwestern Ontario Agriculture: Barriers to Adoption

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

Further study is planned at the end of the SWEEP to contrast results from this study.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:58:10 PM