See what research our faculty is doing to improve food production.

  • The Political Ecology of South Carolina "Sustainable" Shrimp from Production to Consumption

      Betsy Beymer-Farris
      Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: South Carolina coastal shrimp fishers initiated and South Carolina consumers are now engaging in "sustainable" and "local" shrimp certification campaigns that denounce industrial shrimp farming for destroying wetlands, seizing land, water and access to the sea from communities, and causing violent conflicts between shrimp farmers and their neighbors (Vandergeest 2007). Sustainable shrimp certification campaigns in South Carolina highlight industrial farm raised shrimp's impact on South Carolina shrimp fishers' livelihoods. This study will assess the political ecology of production-consumption linkages that now comprise the commodity chain of South Carolina shrimp. This study will examine if these newly initiated consumer campaigns to "eat local" or "certified sustainable" South Carolina shrimp are resulting in more socially and ecologically sustainable fishing practices, decreasing dependence on imported farm raised shrimp, as well as reinvigorating a declining shrimp fishing industry in South Carolina.

      Duration of Study: August 2012 – May 2013
      Collaborators: Michaela Barnett (Student) and Mangrove Action Project (International NGO)
      Published Research: Yes
      Contact: betsy.beymer-farris@furman.edu

  • Ecological Footprint and Supply Chain Analysis of Greenbrier Farms

      Brannon Andersen
      Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: A major question in sustainability is "what does a sustainable organization look like?". We will be analyzing Greenbrier Farms' operations using ecological footprint analysis and supply chain analysis to better understand whether their operations could be considered "sustainable," and if not, what improvements might be made and what obstacles are faced. We will use ecological footprint software to estimate the impact of Greenbrier's operations on the planet (in terms of global hectares of bioproductive land required to support their operations) and use GIS to map distances to all relevant operations (where the chicks, steers, hay, lime, and seed are sourced, where slaughterhouses are located), and then examine those operations for sustainability if possible (e.g., what is the fate of the non-meat portion of beef production?). Besides the academic understanding of such operations, a major goal is to determine whether such methods can help a business like Greenbrier Farms find ways to improve operations to become more efficient and sustainable.

      Duration of Study: Ongoing
      Collaborators: Bill Ranson (Faculty), Suresh Muthukrishnan (Faculty), Dale Cowen (Student), Roddy Pick (Greenbrier Farms), and Best Foot Forward (London England, ecological footprint software).
      Contact: brannon.andersen@furman.edu

  • Landscape Change and Intensity of Human Use of the Landscape in the Upstate

      Brannon Andersen
      Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: We are looking at agricultural records from 1860 to the present to quantitatively understand changes in crop cover in the upstate of South Carolina. Our research in the River Basins Research Initiative has led us to hypothesize that landscape history is an important causative factor resulting in the current geomorphology and biodiversity we observe in local streams. We currently arm wave a bit regarding "cotton farming," and so the goal of this research partially is to quantify land cover. We are also intensively studying the Mechanic Creek watershed (location of Greenbrier Farm), quantifying landscape use over time using a series of air photos from 1938 until the present. These data will be used to model the "human appropriation of net primary productivity" which will be a measure of how intensely humans use the landscape, and how the intensity of use changes over time.

      Duration of Study: Fall 2012 - Ongoing
      Collaborators: Suresh Muthukrishnan (Faculty), John Quinn (Faculty), Kyle Donovan (Student), and Roddy Pick (Greenbrier Farms)
      Contact: brannon.andersen@furman.edu

  • Soil Organic Carbon in Intensely Grazed Pastures

      Brannon Andersen
      Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: Cotton and tobacco farming led to extreme soil erosion in the upstate of South Carolina and the consequent loss of soil organic carbon (SOC). SOC is critical to proper water and nutrient balance of soils. Intensive grazing is a method of agroecology that maintains healthy vegetative cover and healthier animals. Combined with no-till plowing, intensive grazing should result in rapid increases in soil organic carbon. We are comparing 12 Aprils Dairy (25 years of intensive grazing) with Greenbrier Farms (2-3 years of intensive grazing) to better understand how this method of agroecology leads to increases in SOC. We collect 20 cm soil profiles, which are carefully described to match appropriate soil series, and 65 cm soil cores, which are subsampled and measured for loss on ignition (LOI). LOI is a proxy for soil organic carbon. To convert LOI to SOC, we send samples to the University of Georgia for LECO analysis to directly measure %SOC for samples with a range of %LOI, then use regression analysis to convert all samples from %LOI to %SOC. Bulk density calculations allow the conversion of %SOC to SOC concentrations in mg C/kg soil. One goal of this research is to understand how quickly intensive grazing can lead to recovery from past farming practices. A second goal is to help upstate farmers implement practices that can lead to faster soil recovery. We are working with Greenbrier Farms on a long term study of how various management practices affect SOC and soil nutrients

      Duration of Study: Late Spring, 2012 - Ongoing
      Collaborators: Greg Lewis (Faculty), Bill Ranson (Faculty), Claire Campbell (Student), Rianna Das (Student), Roddy Pick (Greenbrier Farms), and Tom Trantham (12 Aprils Dairy)
      Published Research: Yes
      Contact: brannon.andersen@furman.edu

  • Conservation Culture and Sustainable Agriculture

      Angela C. Halfacre
      Political Science/Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: This project uses public policy and environmental justice theories to analyze land conservation patterns and environmental history in the Carolinas. This research focuses on Lowcountry South Carolina, but now is expanding to Upcountry South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Using interdisciplinary literature and ethnographic, historical, and spatial methods, this research examines how citizens, with political, corporate, and media influences, seek to maintain regional distinctive sense of place and fragile ecology at the regional level in the American South. Research focuses on the role that sustainable agriculture, and the promotion of the local foods movement, has on conservation in the Carolinas.

      Duration of Study: 2008 - Ongoing
      Published Research: Yes
      Contact: angela.halfacre@furman.edu

  • Farmer Perceptions and Conservation Culture

      Angela C. Halfacre
      Political Science/Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: This research is a sustainability science exploration of farmer perceptions in the American South and how these perceptions impact regional conservation culture (or the elements/factors, including cultural dynamics, environmental history, and actors, that catalyze and sustain a conservation and preservation ethic) and environmental decision-making. Few studies have examined the relationships among farmer environmental perceptions, conceptualization of conservation, and willingness to engage in conservation strategies and techniques in the United States. Through ethnographic methods, including in-depth interviews, participant observation, and documents analysis, our research team is exploring the experiences of farmers in the Carolinas (presently Upcountry South Carolina) and how these experiences are translating into behaviors and decisions about livelihoods and the land.

      Duration of Study: Fall 2012 - Ongoing
      Collaborators: Courtney Quinn (Research Manager and Fellow), Coleman Allums (Student), and Jenn Summers (Student)
      Contact: angela.halfacre@furman.edu

  • "Counting" Community Gardens

      Angela C. Halfacre
      Political Science/Earth and Environmental Sciences

      Description: Exploring the intersections of environmental justice, social capital, and sense of place literatures, this project examines the ways community gardens can be assessed for impact from a sustainability science perspective.

      Duration of Study: Fall 2012 - Ongoing
      Collaborators: Nick Oschman (Student), Reece Lyerly (Gardening For Good Director), and Karly Chapman (Student)
      Contact: angela.halfacre@furman.edu

  • Building Capacity to Conserve the Bell's Vireo in Nebraska's Agroecosystems

      John Quinn
      Biology

      Description: The importance of conservation outside of protected areas is increasingly evident. Given the predominance of agriculture in Nebraska, data are needed to quantify the conservation value of upland shrubland embedded in farm systems to Nebraska's bird populations. In particular, data are needed to identify and quantify what local and landscape habitat patterns affect Bell's Vireo abundance and breeding success. Furthermore, partnerships are need to translate research results into action and work with landowners to ensure adoption of identified beneficial practices. This project will ultimately lead to the development of a strategic plan to identify and monitor practices expected to yield the greatest biological conservation return in upland shrubland embedded in agroecosystems.

      Duration of Study: 2011-2013
      Collaborators: Amy Larson (MS Student at University of Nebraska - Lincoln) and Jim Brandle (Faculty at University of Nebraska - Lincoln)
      Contact: john.quinn@furman.edu

  • Quantifying the Environmental Benefits of Local Farm Systems in Upstate

      John Quinn
      Biology

      Description: While social and economic benefits of local food systems have been identified, environmental benefits remain uncertain. Moreover, benefits to growers and consumers of maintaining biologically diverse local farm systems have not yet been quantified. This project will 1) quantify the conservation value of local farm systems in the Upstate to winter bird populations, and 2) investigate the potential for agro-tourism associated with birding at local farm systems.

      Duration of Study: Fall 2012 - Ongoing
      Collaborators: Laura Reid (Student), Jordan Ellington (Student), and Jake Crouse (Student)
      Contact: john.quinn@furman.edu

  • Establishment of Student/Faculty Research Garden Plots Near the Townes Science Center

      Laura Thompson
      Biology

      Description: Furman University is a place for intellectual growth and personal discovery. Amidst the lectures and laboratory sessions involved with this growth and discovery we wish to incorporate experiences in sustainability through access to a research garden close to the Townes Science Center complex. Furman already boasts an organic garden that is part of the on-campus CSA. This Furman Farm is a quarter acre garden located beside the Shi Center located in the north portion of the Furman campus. The Furman Farm generates a wide variety of produce throughout the year using sustainable agricultural practices such as crop rotations, composting, drip lines, natural fertilizers, and integrated pest management. The proposed new garden area will include the Fiber/Dye Garden and the Ethnobotany garden that have already been established adjacent to the Bell Greenhouse in the south portion of the Furman campus. This garden area will be dedicated to student and faculty projects that look at sustainable practices in gardening as opposed to production for the CSA. Some possible projects include a comparison of composting methods for improvement of soil organic content and fertility, investigations into integrated pest management, and continued production work in the Fiber/Dye garden and Ethnobotany garden. Currently we are working on improving the soil in the site and collecting seed for distribution to individuals interested in growing fiber and dyes plants for personal use.

      Duration of Study: Ongoing
      Collaborators: Sarah Lyons (Student) and Ami Okuno (Student)
      Published Research: Yes
      Contact: laura.thompson@furman.edu

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