A-7/12 Triggering change: Towards a conceptualisation of major change processes in farm decision-making

In this paper, we present a broad conceptualisation of major change in farm level trajectories. We argue that as a result of path dependency, major changes in farming practice primarily occur in response to ‘trigger events’, after which farm managers intensify their consideration of the options open to them, and may set a new course of action. In undertaking new actions, the farm system enters a period of instability, while new practices become established. Over time these new practices, if successfully achieving anticipated aims, lead to a further period of path dependency. Recognising and capitalising upon this pattern of events is important for the development of policies oriented towards incentivising major change in farming practices, and may explain why similar projects and/or policies influence some ‘types’ of farmers differently, and at different times. To illustrate our arguments, examples of this process are described in relation to empirical examples of major on-farm change processes, drawn from qualitative interviews with organic and conventional farmers in two English case study areas. Journal of Environmental Management, 104(2012):142-151

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