Flachs's research focuses on the sociocultural and socioecological aspects of local and global agriculture systems. Overarching themes in Flachs's writings include the lived experiences of agricultural technologies, the value of local management knowledge in managing complex agro-ecologies, and the socioeconomic impact of revivalist or alternative food systems. At Purdue University, Flachs works with agricultural extension to help build community partnerships and understand how new technologies and programs serve the needs of farmers and eaters.
Identifies the rise and fall of hotspots of new, alternative farmers across the United States from 1992 to 2012. Discusses how these hotspots are clustered around peri-urban corridors close enough to cities to sell their products but outside key factory farming or urban areas where land prices would be prohibitively expensive.
Describes how farmers make very different kinds of decisions about their private GM hybrid cotton, publicly bred rice varieties, and heirloom saved vegetable seeds. Explains the effect on how these technologies spread and how producers interact with these different markets.
Shows that we need to better understand the key local stakeholders who adapt development programs to the needs of the local community, and their motivations for doing so.
Shows that Indian GM cotton farmers are increasingly planting their fields denser. Explains that this change in planting density sets off a wave of related changes in agricultural technology, the most important of which is an increase in herbicide use that incentivizes new but currently illegal GM herbicide tolerant cotton seeds.
Analyzes a decade of Indian farmer GM cotton seed choices. Shows that farmers are statistically less likely to plant a seed that they have planted before and that there is no relationship between a farmer's yield and the seed they plant in the following year. Demonstrates that the only predictive factor for a given farmer's choice is the sheer presence of that seed in the farmer's nearest neighbor's field.
Argues that organic cotton farms in Telangana, India are more biodiverse than GM cotton farms — not because organic agriculture is inherently biodiverse but because these programs incentivize farmers to grow a larger spread of crops than farmers working in conventional cotton markets can afford to grow.