Potential Impacts of Shared-Use Facilities on Conservation Programs

Numerous programs exist for farms to integrate conservation into their existing production framework to increase water quality and soil conservation while providing technical support and financial incentives for farmers to succeed. Yet despite these incentives, farmers often do not adopt these conservation practices for a variety of social, cultural, informational, and financial reasons. Thus, finding creative and informed ways of increasing adoption of conservation practices is imperative in improving environmental outcomes. Research on both small farm viability and adoption of conservation practices reveals that creating spaces where diverse agricultural stakeholders can come together and form economic and social ties creates an opportunity for diffusion of conservation initiatives. We examine the potential impacts of a proposed agricultural shared-use facility on adoption of conservation programs in the Shenandoah Valley by examining potential financial, social, and informational leverage points. Recommendations for organizations interested in improving soil and water quality and building networks of trust among farmers involved with such a facility are provided as well.