The report Alternative Agriculture (NRC, 1989) used 11 case studies that included 14 farms to provide in-depth examples of the wide range of “alternative” agricultural farming systems discussed in the report. The case studies were conducted in 1986 and included 5 integrated crop and livestock farms1, 7 fruit and vegetable farms2, 1 beef cattle ranch3, and 1 rice farm4. The current committee attempted to contact these farms to find out how they have performed since 1986. This type of longitudinal study is a valuable way to identify the factors that influence long-term successes and challenges, and to highlight the organizational and management strategies associated with a farm’s long-term viability.
The committee was able to obtain current information and contacted the persons who owned or operated the farms for 10 out of the original 14 farms (Table 7-1). The committee was unable to confirm the operating status of 4 of the farms because it could not locate or reach the current owners, operators, or other people interviewed in 1986. Of the 10 farms contacted, 2 were no longer in business. One farm (Stephen Pavich and Sons) reported that they had ceased operation in 2001 as a result of several unfortunate events, including three insurance claims during the time that the farm was expanding. Although the case-study farm business no longer exists, Stephen Pavich Sr.’s children remain involved in agriculture as farmers or agricultural consultants. Another original case-study farmer (Ted Winsberg of Green Cay Produce) has retired, although other people are farming some of the land he used to farm.
Although Rex Spray of Spray Brothers’ Farm and Mel Coleman were interested in providing an update of their farms, they were unable to participate in in-depth interviews because of time constraints. Both farms were still in operation in 2008. Spray Brothers’ Farm was using mostly the same management practices and crop rotations reported in Alternative Agriculture. Rex said that the economic viability of the farm has not changed, but he indicated that weeds and changes in weather patterns were two of his biggest concerns.
When the committee reached Mel Coleman of Coleman Natural Foods (known as Coleman Natural Beef in NRC, 1989) in late 2007, he said that the family’s cattle ranch had reduced the size of its herd considerably since 1989 because of drought. Coleman Natural Foods, however, was in a better financial position in 2007 than in the 1980s because of expanded product lines and a premium for its certified-organic and naturally raised livestock