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What does it take to make farming sustainable? : lessons from southern Finnish organic farmers

Pellikka, Saara Maria LU (2016) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM01 20152
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
The adverse impacts to environmental and human well-being derived from the past achievements in
agricultural productivity and modernised food systems now call for building up sustainable farming
systems. Increasingly specialised, standardised and concentrated agrifood systems have evoked both
academic and practical interest in enhancing more place-based and integrated farming styles with shared
believes in alternative ways of doing farming. Organic agriculture is one largely recognised attempt to
transform food systems towards the better but it has also been questioned for producing lower yields than
conventional agriculture, and being subjected to growing market interests. While much research has
focused on the potential... (More)
The adverse impacts to environmental and human well-being derived from the past achievements in
agricultural productivity and modernised food systems now call for building up sustainable farming
systems. Increasingly specialised, standardised and concentrated agrifood systems have evoked both
academic and practical interest in enhancing more place-based and integrated farming styles with shared
believes in alternative ways of doing farming. Organic agriculture is one largely recognised attempt to
transform food systems towards the better but it has also been questioned for producing lower yields than
conventional agriculture, and being subjected to growing market interests. While much research has
focused on the potential environmental benefits of organic farming, there is a need to better understand
organic farmers themselves, their experiences and meanings of farming.

Since farming is a profoundly human-driven activity and thus farmers have a central role in influencing the
development of the food systems, my attempt is to shed light on how to enhance sustainability in farming.
With Finnish farming as my case study, I investigate organic farmers’ perceptions on the aspects that are
important for good farming and the challenges concerning organic farming, and discuss potential ways for
improvement. I employed qualitative methods and collected data through six semi-structured interviews
with southern Finnish organic farmers. I analyse the data and discuss it against a theoretical framework
comprised of three perspectives on sustainable farming: food sufficiency, ecological stewardship and
community.

The results suggest a heterogeneous reality in which organic farmers’ aspects related to food sufficiency,
ecological stewardship and community are diverse and varying. The existing economic, institutional,
physical and social barriers give rise to concerns about the logic of the market overriding the alternative
meanings of farming, thus further threatening the fate of sustainability in farming: not only in terms of
ensuring agricultural productivity and ecosystem well-being in the long run, but also in terms of having
socially meaningful farming systems. A suggested way forward is to promote the sort of agrifood
governance that takes an integrated and a long-term perspective to sustainability, ensures deliberative and
collaborative decision-making processes and facilitates the creation of social networks with a shared
endeavour to meet sustainability principles, rather than reduces the versatility of socio-ecological systems.
Organic farming can fuel the much-needed change and create opportunities for farmers’ empowerment
within food systems. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Pellikka, Saara Maria LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM01 20152
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
sustainable farming, organic farming, farmers, Finland, agrifood governance, sustainability science
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2016:002
language
English
id
8726407
date added to LUP
2016-02-18 21:17:54
date last changed
2016-02-18 21:17:54
@misc{8726407,
  abstract     = {The adverse impacts to environmental and human well-being derived from the past achievements in
agricultural productivity and modernised food systems now call for building up sustainable farming
systems. Increasingly specialised, standardised and concentrated agrifood systems have evoked both
academic and practical interest in enhancing more place-based and integrated farming styles with shared
believes in alternative ways of doing farming. Organic agriculture is one largely recognised attempt to
transform food systems towards the better but it has also been questioned for producing lower yields than
conventional agriculture, and being subjected to growing market interests. While much research has
focused on the potential environmental benefits of organic farming, there is a need to better understand
organic farmers themselves, their experiences and meanings of farming.

Since farming is a profoundly human-driven activity and thus farmers have a central role in influencing the
development of the food systems, my attempt is to shed light on how to enhance sustainability in farming.
With Finnish farming as my case study, I investigate organic farmers’ perceptions on the aspects that are
important for good farming and the challenges concerning organic farming, and discuss potential ways for
improvement. I employed qualitative methods and collected data through six semi-structured interviews
with southern Finnish organic farmers. I analyse the data and discuss it against a theoretical framework
comprised of three perspectives on sustainable farming: food sufficiency, ecological stewardship and
community.

The results suggest a heterogeneous reality in which organic farmers’ aspects related to food sufficiency,
ecological stewardship and community are diverse and varying. The existing economic, institutional,
physical and social barriers give rise to concerns about the logic of the market overriding the alternative
meanings of farming, thus further threatening the fate of sustainability in farming: not only in terms of
ensuring agricultural productivity and ecosystem well-being in the long run, but also in terms of having
socially meaningful farming systems. A suggested way forward is to promote the sort of agrifood
governance that takes an integrated and a long-term perspective to sustainability, ensures deliberative and
collaborative decision-making processes and facilitates the creation of social networks with a shared
endeavour to meet sustainability principles, rather than reduces the versatility of socio-ecological systems.
Organic farming can fuel the much-needed change and create opportunities for farmers’ empowerment
within food systems.},
  author       = {Pellikka, Saara Maria},
  keyword      = {sustainable farming,organic farming,farmers,Finland,agrifood governance,sustainability science},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {What does it take to make farming sustainable? : lessons from southern Finnish organic farmers},
  year         = {2016},
}