Many of today's biggest agricultural challenges are social, as extensive research on best management practices is met with low rates of adoption. Bridging the gap between research and implementation requires moving past the quantitative, survey-based methods that are often used to answer questions about adoption and decision-making processes (Prokopy, 2011). Our study aims to promote successful utilization of best organic nutrient management practices by employing qualitative social science research. We will examine barriers to implementation of plant-based nutrient management strategies among organic, socially disadvantaged farmers in California's Salinas Valley. Through collaboration with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), we will recruit 30 organic Latina/o farmers to participate in 5 in-depth, semi-structured focus groups at ALBA's Rural Development Center. The moderator will probe information about (1) farmers' current knowledge and utilization of plant-based nutrient management practices, (2) field-level challenges to implementation and strategies for overcoming these challenges, and (3) economic, educational, and infrastructural barriers to implementation. Focus group transcripts will be qualitatively analyzed to examine emergent themes from discussions and to explore how responses vary as a function of farmers' structural arrangements and social stratification.
Findings will directly inform educational programming via ALBA's Farmer Education Course and will be incorporated into economic and infrastructural assistance available through ALBA's Organic Farm Incubator. Meanwhile, our empirically based conclusions will provide for comparative analysis with other agricultural regions of the U.S. and will allow for the widespread improvement of organic farmer assistance services.