Moving beyond entrepreneurial skills: key factors driving entrepreneurial learning in multifunctional agriculture

P.L.M. Seuneke, T. Lans, J.S.C. Wiskerke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely acknowledged that, next to sound craftsmanship and management, farmers increasingly need entrepreneurship if they are to survive in modern agriculture. This is reflected by an increasing number of studies focusing on entrepreneurship in agriculture. While much work in this comprehensive body of literature focuses on entrepreneurial skills, relatively little attention has been paid to the learning process leading to the development of these skills. This paper therefore explores that learning process and focuses on the context of multifunctional agriculture. Our investigation was guided by the recently developed concept of entrepreneurial learning and particularly focussed on finding out which factors underlie the entrepreneurial learning process in this specific context. Empirical work done in six different multifunctional farms in the Netherlands revealed three major factors driving entrepreneurial learning: 1) re-developing an entrepreneurial identity, 2) crossing the boundaries of agriculture and 3) opening up the family farm. Crucial to understanding these factors is the challenging process of transition from production-oriented to multifunctional farming. A perceived productivist norm, created by decades of post-war agricultural modernisation, was found to make entrepreneurial learning in this context far from self-evident. This paper contributes by bringing the entrepreneurial learning process to light and demonstrating its complexity in a specific context. Based on our findings, we argue that the debate on entrepreneurship in agriculture needs to move beyond its current focus on entrepreneurial skills. The concept of entrepreneurial learning provides a useful framework in this respect. Further to its theoretical relevance, this paper ultimately supports practitioners in finding inroads into fostering entrepreneurship in multifunctional agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-219
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • conceptual-framework
  • farm sector
  • business
  • environment


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