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Resilience applied to farming: organic farmers’ perspectives

Augustine Perrin, Université de Toulouse, INRAE, UMR AGIR, Castanet-Tolosan, France
Rebecka Milestad, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, KTH - Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Guillaume Martin, Université de Toulouse, INRAE, UMR AGIR, Castanet-Tolosan, France


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The increasingly uncertain and changing agricultural context raises questions about the resilience, i.e., ability to cope with disturbances, of farms to climate change and other disturbances. To date, the resilience concept has been discussed mainly in the scientific field leading to an abundant literature on social-ecological system resilience and on livelihood resilience. A farm resilience framework is developing and borrows from those two frameworks. However, consistent application of the farm resilience concept remains difficult and requires better consideration of farmers’ perspectives. Our objectives in this study were to highlight farmers’ perceptions of farm resilience to the variety of disturbances they have to cope with in their daily farm management and to highlight resilience factors. We conducted 128 semistructured interviews on French organic dairy cattle (85) and sheep (43) farms. We asked farmers six open-ended questions about resilience in organic dairy farming. Inductive content analysis of the data was conducted. According to farmers, a resilient farm relies on a high degree of autonomy in investments, animal feeding, and decision making, and is economically efficient. Other resilience indicators include consistency of the farming plan, with, e.g., herd size corresponding to the production potential of the land, and transferability of the farm to relatives, through, e.g., the financial capital required to take over the farm. Farmers also highlighted different ways to achieve resilience. Because of the higher cost of organic inputs, converting to organic farming indirectly promotes adaptations of farms toward autonomy and economic efficiency, and is thus regarded as a major resilience factor. Farmers also highlighted the central role of pastures and grazing to achieve autonomy and improve cost control. Diversification within the farm via crop rotations, herd composition, and farm products was also considered to improve farm resilience. In this study, we are the first to explore organic farmers’ perception of farm resilience. Better understanding farmers’ perceptions is necessary for developing training and advisory programs to support farm resilience to a variety of disturbances.

Key words

content analysis; dairy farmer; organic farming; perception; resilience

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087