Agricultural entrepreneurship and sustainability - is it a good or bad fit?

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    In today’s Dutch agriculture emphasis is put on entrepreneurship, social responsibility and sustainability. But do these fit together? In economic theories entrepreneurs are seen as movers of the markets, seekers of profit opportunities and innovators. Not all farmers however meet these conditions and if they do, there is no guarantee that this goes with socially responsible entrepreneurship and sustainability. In a sociological explorative study a multiform group of 20 pig and 21 dairy farmers – both male and female – were asked about their views on animal welfare and other features of sustainable farming. The group consisted of conventional, organic and free range farmers with different farming styles. Their farms varied in levels of scale, intensity, degree of specialization and participation in quality assurance schemes. In the indepth interviews, it became clear that the farmers focus on different aspects of sustainability and that multi-dimensional sustainability is not a self-evident aim for all farmers. An economically viable farm is important for all farmers, although farmers with idealist motives stress this aspect less than other farmers. Social sustainability at the level of the farm (work load and schedule, division of tasks, balance work/ family life/ social life) is accentuated by conventional farmers on large scaled specialized farms. At a higher level of social sustainability (fair trade, fair prices, poverty reduction), in particular organic and biodynamic farmers stress that farmers have to take the responsibility to contribute to social equity. The latter group puts also emphasis on their responsibility towards the ecosystem. They, for instance, focus on sustainable cattle, mineral management and nature and landscape conservation. The interviewed large scale conventional farmers on the other hand, see energy production as a potentially profitable option to contribute to ecological sustainability. This means that agricultural entrepreneurs do not ‘automatically’ take all aspects of sustainability – people, planet and profit – into account. Policy makers who think they can stimulate sustainable agriculture by promoting agricultural entrepreneurship should be aware of this.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th. Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethcs, Nottingham, 2-4 july 2009
    EditorsKate Millar, Pru Hobson West, Brigitte Nerlich
    Place of PublicationWenen
    PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventCongress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethcs -
    Duration: 2 Jul 20094 Jul 2009


    ConferenceCongress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethcs

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