Article scientifique

M. Bouttes, I. Darnhofer, G. Martin
Converting to organic farming as a way to enhance adaptive capacity
Organic Agriculture, 2019, 9(2), 235-247.
Farmers are facing an increasingly turbulent context, driven by volatile markets, shifting policies, and new societal expectations. Insights into farmers’ adaptive capacity are helpful to understand how farmers perceive various options, and what they think is necessary to enable their farms to persist through uncertain times. We focus on dairy farmers, who have faced strong market volatility in the last few years. We conducted interviews with 20 dairy farmers who were starting their conversion to organic farming in Aveyron, France. The analysis showed that the interviewed farmers perceived organic farming as less risky, especially given stable prices and positive consumer perception. Also, they expected organic farming to increase their autonomy, especially regarding feed, thus reducing their farm’s exposure to volatile input prices. Interviewed farmers were aware of technical risks linked to new production practices but were confident in their ability to manage them. Organic farming was also perceived as stimulating their learning, especially through a collective dynamic and an open exchange of experiences. The interviewed farmers expected that the higher prices of organic milk would enable them to reduce the number of cows, thus reducing their workload. This would give them more time to observe, reflect, experiment, and learn, thus not only increasing their professional satisfaction but also enabling them to better cope with changes. Overall, they perceived organic farming as an attractive option to maintain the viability of their family farm, an important motivation given their rootedness in the territory. The interviews thus showed that their decision to convert to organic farming was driven by their expectation that it would enhance their adaptive capacity, thus enabling them to better face current turbulences and future changes in the broader context.
Keywords: dairy farming, transition, adaptiveness, vulnerability, resilience, farm management

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