From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship – PhD-thesis Pieter Seuneke

Multifunctional agriculture


On the 9th of May, I (Pieter Seuneke) will defend my PhD-thesis entitled:

From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship: exploring the underlying learning process


My thesis focusses on the many European and Dutch farming families which, urged by the environmental, social and economic crisis in agriculture, have diversified their conventional production-oriented farming activities by developing new non-farming businesses on their existing farms. Currently, there are many farmers who are involved in agro-tourism, nature and landscape management, processing and selling of farm products and, more recently in The Netherlands, professional (child)care and on-farm education. The development of such new business activities by these farmers represents a shift away from conventional production-oriented farming towards a more ‘multifunctional’ farming model in which the role of agriculture goes beyond mass food production.


Based on four different studies, all drawing on the empirical work done in the context of the Dutch research project ‘Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture’ (carried out by the Rural Sociology Group from 2009 to 2011), I unravel the learning process which is considered as underlying the switch towards multifunctionality and multifunctional entrepreneurship. In other words: the process by which farmers (men, women and their families) re-invent themselves as ‘multifunctional entrepreneurs’, gain the necessary knowledge, skills and networks ‘to do multifunctionality’ as well as finding their way on the multifunctional pathway. Apart from its contribution to theory – by bringing this complex learning process to light – my work ultimately supports practitioners (teachers, trainers, advisers) in fostering this, for today’s and tomorrow’s agriculture and rural areas, valuable form of agricultural entrepreneurship.


During my PhD, I have been supervised by Prof. Han Wiskerke (professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University) and Dr Thomas Lans (ass. prof. Education and Competence Studies, Wageningen University).

The defence

My defence will take place on Friday the 9th of May, at 13.30, in the Aula of Wageningen University. The event is open to those who are interested and can also be followed/seen back on WURtv.


For more information:

Learning about the role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development – student’s reflection (4)

Together with four students of Wageningen University, I spend two weeks in Kaunas, Lithuania to represent Wageningen University, and the Rural Sociology Group, at this years’ ‘Intensive Programme’ on rural development. This post is the last one in a series of posts in which the participating students reflect on the programme and share their experiences.

By Camilo Carrillo Wilisch (Erasmus student Master Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University):

From the 15th to the 28th of April I participated in the IP “Role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development” in Kaunas, Lithuania. The preparation for this IP started some weeks on forehand. Together with the other students, we discussed about the expectations and motivation for participating in the course. In my case, I visited Lithuania few years ago and I liked the country and it’s people a lot, the IP represented a wonderful opportunity to visit and learn more about Lithuania. In addition I’m a Erasmus-Student from Berlin and I study environmental technology. In Wageningen I followed courses of the BSc Minor Sustainable agriculture and consumption. My appetite for new experiences and knowledge and my interests on the links between rural and urban areas, multifunctional agriculture and sustainable food production and consumption were the main reasons why I wanted to participate in the IP. I did expect to get an overview about the agribusiness sector, it’s relation with rural development, and the natural resource management in Lithuania. With my expectations and my small luggage I traveled to Lithuania in company of the other students.

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Learning about the role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development

Together with four students of Wageningen University, I spend two weeks in Kaunas, Lithuania to represent Wageningen University, and the Rural Sociology Group, at this years’ ‘Intensive Programme’ on rural development. In this post I would like to reflect on this interesting experience and share some of the activities, impressions and outcomes.


Intensive programme?

An ‘Intensive Programme’ (or IP) is a short study programme bringing together different EU member states’ students and teachers from higher education institutes to study a relevant topic, in this case: rural development. EU’s main motivation to finance these programmes is to encourage multinational learning and teaching in the EU. The Rural Sociology Group has been participating in IP’s on rural development for some years now. Last years’ IP, hosted by colleagues of Padova University, focused on ‘the role of agriculture in territorial identity’ and took place in the Belluno province in the Italian Dolomites. We have also participated in IP’s with other themes. More recent, colleague Petra Derksen participated in an IP on traditional foods and micro-organisms in Romania. In a series of posts on this weblog she, and participating students, reflect on their experiences in this programme.        

The role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development

This years’ IP, on rural development, focused on ‘the role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development’. The programme was hosted by colleagues from the Aleksandras Stulginskis University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Twenty tutors and more than forty students came together for two weeks to discuss and learn about (Lithuanian) rural development. Participants represented universities from: Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Belgium, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands.

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Uitnodiging Studiedag Multifunctionele Landbouw

Op woensdag 15 juni a.s. organiseert de vakgroep Rurale Sociologie (samen met collega’s van Educatie- en Competentiestudies) een studiedag rond het thema multifunctionele landbouw. Deze bijeenkomst vormt de afsluiting van van het tweejarige onderzoeksproject ‘Dynamiek en Robuustheid van Multifunctionele Landbouw’.

De studiedag vindt plaats op Landgoed Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt en is bedoeld voor iedereen geïnteresseerd in en betrokken bij de huidige en toekomstige ontwikkelingen van multifunctionele landbouw in Nederland (ondernemers, onderzoekers, beleidsmakers, adviseurs etc.). Aan deelname zijn géén kosten verbonden.

Download hier de volledige uitnodiging. Voor meer informatie en aanmelding kijk ook op de website van het onderzoek ‘Dynamiek en Robuustheid van Multifunctionele Landbouw’.

Tot ziens op 15 juni a.s.! 


Aankondiging Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw

Op donderdag 19 mei a.s. organiseren de Groene Kennis Coöperatie, de Taskforce Multifunctionele Landbouw en KPC Groep de ‘Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw’. De dag richt zich op docenten in het (groen)onderwijs die meer willen weten van multifunctionele landbouw, het ondernemen op deze bedrijven en de manier waarop het onderwijs hierop kan inspringen.


Naast een bijdrage in de vorm van een inleidende presentatie organiseren wij, n.a.v. van onze recente onderzoekswerkzaamheden, een interessante workshop op deze dag. In de workshop staat de verankering van multifunctionele landbouw in het onderwijs centraal: hoe kunnen we aandacht besteden aan deze vorm van ondernemen en om welke (nieuwe) vormen van leren vraagt het?

Onderwijsdag Multifunctionele Landbouw

Doelgroep: docenten, stagebegeleiders

Datum: 19 mei a.s. van 09.30 – 16.15 uur

Locatie: Fruittuin Verbeek, Oldebroek

Deelname is gratis. Meer informatie over de dag, het programma en aanmelding is te vinden op de volgende website.