John Fairweather lecture: Breadth of view and farming innovation – May 3

John R. Fairweather
Lincoln University, New Zealand

May 3, 2010
3:30 p.m.
354 Agricultural Hall
Reception Following Lecture

Good farming and doing the unthinkable: is breadth of view important in bringing innovation to farming practices?

For farmers to improve the environmental outcomes on their farms they need to change their practices. We argue that studying farmer orientation in terms of ‘good farming’, using Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, field and capital, offers a better understanding of change in farm practices. In this article we develop the concept of ‘breadth of view’ to account for how farmers locate themselves socially and environmentally, and then link this to their innovation propensity. Factor and cluster analysis of farmer survey data identified four groups of farmers each with different combinations of emphasis on breadth of view and innovation propensity. Results also show that organic farmers were rated higher on all dimensions. The analysis of additional case study data of farmer practices shows different on-farm outcomes for the most innovative cluster. The results are interpreted in terms of how breath of view may have different effects, that is, be either a source of new ideas or a driver of conformity, and also show how farmers may be able to achieve the unthinkable. The presence of innovative farmers suggests that it is possible for farmers to achieve social, environmental and financial gains.