RETHINK – Farmers from Salzburg (Austria) explain diversification as a strategy to strengthen resilience

RETHINK is a transdisciplinary research project supported by the European Commission and funding bodies in 14 countries under the umbrella of FP7 and the RURAGRI ERA-NET. The Rural Sociology Group has a seat in the RETHINK Advisory Board.

Researchers from BOKU have made three short films (also with English undertitles) in which farmers explain their family farm strategie in terms of strengthening their resilience.

Resilience refers to the capacity of social, economic, and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function(s), identity, and structure

1. Resilience needs diversity – Diversity needs balance

Five farmers form Salzburg (Austria) farmers talk about the advantages of having different income sources (both on- and off farm) to strengthen their resilience. But they also point out the challenges related to managing diversity. They talk about what it takes to successfully manage diversity, especially to ensure that the workload for the various family members is not too high and that quality of life does not suffer.

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Internship: diversification strategies of farmers in peri-urban Amstelland

Aside

Amstelland is a traditional meadow landscape, dominated by dairy farming, and framed on three sides by the cities of Amsterdam and Amstelveen. The vicinity of the city offers threats and opportunities for farmers in Amstelland. The area is intensively used for recreation.

Citizen organisation Stichting Beschermers Amstelland (SBA) is concerned with the future of the area. SBA presumes that preservation of the landscape is connected to economic sustainability of the farms. For that reason SBA is interested in the strategies of farmers towards diversification and pluri-activity. A number of farmers already have added multifunctional activities to their conventional farm. Most farmers are member in the environmental cooperative De Amstel and take agri-environmental measures. Some farmers have started a B&B or sell products on farm. The peri-urban situation leads to high land prices, slowing down opportunities for farm enlargement. As a result, more farmers are likely to consider diversification and pluri-activity as an alternative strategy.

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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

Context

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.

Focus

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.

Supervision

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.

Contact

For more information: pieter.seuneke@wur.nl

New course: Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development

The MSc course “Understanding Rural Development: Theories, Practices and Methodologies” (course code RSO-31806) has been revised and renamed into “Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development”. The course is mandatory for Master students within the track Sociology of Rural Development of the Master International Development Studies, specializing in rural sociology and a free choice course for Master students of other programmes and tracks. If you are interested in topics such as alternative food geographies, food citizenship, food democracy, urban food provisioning, sustainable place shaping, and regional branding, it may be worth participating in this course. Students who do not have a BSc degree in International Development Studies or related field of expertise may not have the assumed prerequisite knowledge to successfully participate and are therefore requested to contact the course coordinator, Han Wiskerke (han.wiskerke@wur.nl), to see if and how this gap can be addressed.

For more information about the contents, schedule, learning outcomes and educational activities, please click on this link or contact the course coordinator for more information or the latest version of the course guide.

DERREG film Westerkwartier

Over the last 3 years, we have been carrying out research in the Westerkwartier concerning global influences on rural regional development.

The Westerkwartier, Groningen Province, The Netherlands

This research was carried out as part of the European project DERREG. The Westerkwartier was involved in two work packages of the project: 1. Investigating arrangements through which public support for joint learning and innovation is provided to development initiatives active in the region (WP4) and 2. Investigating global networking activities among rural businesses in the Westerkwartier (WP1).

In the summer and fall of this year, three film students from the University of Aberystwyth in Wales made their way around Europe to visit all case study areas and to film the present development activities. In the Westerkwartier, the film focuses on our research conducted for WP4 (joint learning and innovation). In this film, several supporters as well as the beneficiaries were interviewed. Their stories describe the development activities in the Westerkwartier very lively and give a feeling of the enthusiastic and motivated engagement of the denizens in developing their Westerkwartier. The film is available on YouTube and can be viewed here. Enjoy!