A few years ago when my lab was given the opportunity by ECCC’s SARPAL program to initiate the first farmer incentive program in Nova Scotia for species-at-risk habitat management, I was a bit worried about introducing payments into a space where I already knew farmers were pretty supportive of biodiversity. Kate Goodale‘s and Simon Greenland-Smith‘s theses, and some of our later work together, demonstrated the ‘balance’ mindset farmers have toward wildlife and habitat. I was concerned that such intrinsic motivations would be crowded out by the payments, either for those who receive them, or for those who see others receiving them. We designed research around our new program, Wood Turtle Strides (WTS), to allow for pre- and post-tests of motivations around riparian management among those eligible and participating in WTS, as well as an experimental survey with other farmers in the province. We were unable to measure crowding among participants, for a few reasons (in part because of the small first-year n, but also because the program is not yet done), but there was no indication of second-hand crowding. The paper on this work is out today in The Canadian Geographer.
Excited today to see this DalNews profile on Seonaid MacDonell. I was Seonaid’s MREM advisor during her summer working with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, and supervised her fall project. During the fall she did a systematic literature review of an issue that has been interesting me since my trip to Alberta last spring. Most research assumes that farmers are more likely to adopt a new practice if their neighbours do. This assumes that if a farmer looks over the fenceline and sees something better, they’ll be moved to do the same. But this ignores lots of the interpersonal stuff that happens over a fenceline, and has happened over years. Great to have Seonaid confirm that this is a research gap.
Great to have Carolyn Mann joining our sustainable grazing team, working remotely from Ottawa. Carolyn is finishing up her Masters at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus in parallel with this part time research contract. Her Masters sees her combining soil testing with farmer interviews about soil quality. She won’t be wielding any test tubes in her work with me, however. Carolyn will be launching the third stream of our Reconciling HM SSHRC project: talking to HM trainers to understand whether HM farmers are born, or made. Welcome aboard.
Great to be here in Alberta and finally getting boots on the ground at some Canadian farms using Holistic Management or its variants. Tuesday we met farmers Steve and Amber Kenyon at Greener Pastures near Busby, at their custom grazing operation, as well as their farming friends from Athabasca, Rusty and Agnes. Steve calls what he does ‘sustainable grazing’ and combines ideas from a range of thinkers including Allan Savory, as well as running his own training. Later that day we met former HM trainer Noel McNaughton, and the next day one of his star students, Don Ruzicka at Sunrise Farms, over near Wainwright. The weather is apocalyptic, but there is nothing like getting into the field, talking to people and looking at landscape to help you shape research so it really matters.
Two SRES grads were in the news together last week. Simon Greenland-Smith, MES and now working for the NSFA (though he still sits down the hall), is launching his new Wood Turtle Strides farmer incentive program for species at risk, with the help of Katie McLean, MREM and now Clean Annapolis River Project. Another recent MREM grad, Mhari Lamarque, is also working on the Wood Turtle Strides project doing program evaluation.