farmer management styles and Q methodology

Regarding the use of Q methodology:

In the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell, we are currently in the
early stages of researching a community food security project in six
northern upstate New York counties. This project will use Q methodology to
assess different food system stakeholders' perceptions and attitudes related
to CFS. The six counties comprise the "North Country" region that borders
Canada and  has special circumstances that challenge food security such as
rural isolation, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and
underutilization of agricultural land.

We will be using Q methodology to assess how different stakeholders (e.g.,
local producers [including farmers and sustainable agriculturalists], food
processors and retailers, government representatives, anti-hunger and other
social service agencies, and private sector actors) view concepts such as
hunger, food insecurity, CFS, community empowerment, and economic
development in a rural context. Then, we propose to bring them together for
a "search conference"--a participative event that enables a large group to
collectively create a plan that its members will implement and is a means of
planning large-scale system changes in a relatively short time frame. As
part of the evaluation design of the search conference, CU faculty, staff,
and graduate students will use Q methodology to gain insight into
stakeholders' values and interests that may affect their willingness to
participate in the search conference and also influence their desire to
collaborate with other stakeholders to promote CFS initiatives after the
search conference. Basically, we want to determine whether a search
conference and activities following it can change perceptions and values
once interaction has occurred between multiple community and food system

We have not used this approach before but you are very right in that it has
been used in public policy analysis and other social science disciplines. It
is a tool to study opinions, attitudes, values, and perceptions. Apparently,
there is a newsletter published through Kent State Univ. and software that
has been developed for this type of factor analysis research. Your project
sounds very interesting. One of the key questions we are grappling with is
HOW to share the results with the stakeholders so that the research finding
get infused back into the project. I would be glad to keep you posted on our

>>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
Vivica Kraak
Division of Nutritional Sciences
3M13A MVR Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853 U.S.A.
tel: 607.255.1703 
fax: 607.255.0178