Building Resilience through Farmers’ Experiments in Organic Agriculture: Examples from Eastern Austria

Susanne Kummer, Rebecka Milestad, Friedrich Leitgeb, Christian R. Vogl

Abstract


Farmers have always lived in changing environments where uncertainty and disturbances are inevitable. Therefore, farmers need the ability to adapt to change in order to be able to maintain their farms. Experimentation is one way for farmers to learn and adapt, and may be a tool to build farm resilience. Farmers’ experiments as defined in this paper are activities where something totally or partially new is introduced at the farm and the feasibility of this introduction is evaluated. The theoretical framework applied to study farmers’ experiments is the concept of resilience. Resilience is the capacity of social-ecological systems to cope with change, and is a framework used to assess complex systems of interactions between humans and ecosystems.

This paper explores to which extent farmers’ experimentation can help build farm resilience. In addition to arguments found in the literature, five organic farms in Eastern Austria are used to illustrate this potential. The farmers were interviewed in 2007 and 2008. The respective farmers all worked fulltime on their farms, were between 34 and 55 years old, and owned farms between 15 and 76 ha. These farmers experimented in ways that enhance resilience – at the farm and in the region. The outcome of experiments can be management changes, new insights, or technology that can be passed on and potentially be built into education and advisory institutions. To encourage farmers’ experiments, it is important to develop conditions that support farmers in their experimenting role.


Full Text: PDF DOI: 10.5539/sar.v1n2p308

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Sustainable Agriculture Research   ISSN 1927-050X (Print)   ISSN 1927-0518 (Online)

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