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Environ Manage. 2015 Jan;55(1):31-42. doi: 10.1007/s00267-014-0376-x. Epub 2014 Sep 30.

Improving environmental management on small-scale farms: perspectives of extension educators and horse farm operators.

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Department of Environmental Studies, The University of North Carolina at Asheville, 137 Rhoades-Robinson Hall, One University Heights, Asheville, NC, 28804, USA,


Although the number of small-scale farms is increasing in North America and Europe, few studies have been conducted to better understand environmental management in this sector. We investigate this issue by examining environmental management on horse farms from both the perspective of the "expert" extension educator and horse farm operator. We conducted a Delphi survey and follow-up interviews with extension educators in Indiana and Kentucky. We also conducted interviews and farm assessments with 15 horse farm operators in the two states. Our results suggest a disconnection between the perceptions of extension educators and horse farm operators. Extension educators believed that operators of small horse farms are unfamiliar with conservation practices and their environmental benefits and they found it difficult to target outreach to this audience. In the interviews with horse farm operators, we found that the majority were somewhat familiar with conservation practices like rotational grazing, soil testing, heavy use area protection, and manure composting. It was not common, however, for practices to be implemented to generally recognized standards. The horse farm respondents perceived these practices as interrelated parts of a system of farm management that has developed over time to best deal with the physical features of the property, needs of the horses, and available resources. Because conservation practices must be incorporated into a complex farm management system, traditional models of extension (i.e., diffusion of innovations) may be inappropriate for promoting better environmental management on horse farms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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