farmer management styles and Q methodology

A couple of colleagues here at UCD (Laura Tourte & Karen Klonsky) and I want
to look at the goals and management styles of "conventional" and
biologically-oriented farmers and relate them to economic performance,
information needs, and other issues.  In sustainable ag we often talk about
the differences among individuals in learning styles, management styles,
etc--the idea here is to describe and classify them, with one goal being
that we could better target education toward the specific groups of

We are interested in using "Q methodology" which is an type of multivariate
analysis (e.g. cluster analysis, principal component analysis, etc.) but the
items being factored are individuals (based on their sorting of goal/belief
statements along an "agree/disagree" scale) rather than attributes, with the
end result being groups of individuals described by their predominant
characteristics (goals/management styles, in this case). It appears to have
been used a fair amount in political science and perhaps communications and
other fields--but apparently is still somewhat in the minority compared to
the more traditional approach.  There is one example of this method applied
to agriculture that Laura found:  John R. Fairweather and Norah C. Keating,
"Goals and management styles of New Zealand Farmers," Agric. Systems. 44:181.

We were wondering if anyone in the sust ag education community was at all
familiar with Q methodology and/or applying other multivariate methods to
this type of question.  We're very excited about its potential but we are
somewhat reluctant to base a major study on a methodology that may be
questioned, without at least asking if others have run into it.


Jill Auburn