Lessons learned from a qualitative sustainability assessment method “Farm Talks”

E.M. de Olde, P.H.M. Derkzen, Frank W. Oudshoorn, C.A.G. Sorensen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademic


This paper presents a qualitative peer review “Farm Talks” method which stimulates farmers’ learning beyond existing quantitative sustainability assessment tools. Farm Talks were started in 2008 by the biodynamic farming association and the Demeter organization in the Netherlands as a qualitative alternative to support learning and awareness on sustainability and biodynamic principles. In each Farm Talk, a farm is visited by a small group of colleagues and a facilitator to discuss farming practices and to explore how the farm could develop its sustainability performance. The Farm Talks method presents a novel approach to sustainability assessments in agriculture and enables farmers to define what they consider important for sustainable and biodynamic farming. The development of the method went through several phases of readjustments based on feedback from farmers and facilitators, and experiences from practice. The initial combination of learning and performance functions in Farm Talks caused tensions. Given the focus on individual farm development, the method continued as a learning and process-oriented method. A precondition for such an approach is the willingness of farmers to participate and actively engage. The method enables farmers to define actions for improvement based on their intrinsic motivation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of abstracts 12th European IFSA Symposium
Subtitle of host publicationSocial and technological transformation of farming systems: Diverging and converging pathways
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event12th European IFSA Symposium - Harper Adams University, Newport, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 201615 Jul 2016


Conference12th European IFSA Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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