Participatory Evaluation of Organic Production System in Southwestern Louisiana

Several researchers (Francis et al., 1990; Murray and Butler, 1994; Poudel et al., 2000) have suggested farmer participatory research methods for problem identification, research design, and implementation of research results in developing production strategies for enhancing agricultural sustainability and environmental quality. Participatory research approaches provide an opportunity for farmers, extension agents, researchers, other stakeholders in the community, and policy makers to design research projects that tend to produce management strategies that are more readily accepted by the farming communities. Participatory approaches provide mutual learning between farmers and the researchers. However, participatory research may be timeconsuming and requires significant efforts from the researchers and farmers to make it successful (Poudel et al., 2000).

Participatory research approaches can significantly influence the development of production systems in areas where growers face low crop yields and a large number of production challenges. Hot, humid summers and heavy rain events are major constraints in the vegetable production region of southwestern Louisiana. Annual rainfall in this region averages 1524 mm and daytime temperatures during the growing season include a maximum of 40° C. Our objective in this project was to establish a participatory research approach in establishing an organic production demonstration system and evaluating organic production techniques with the communities, students and other stakeholders in southwestern Louisiana.