Learning Challenges in Organic Vegetable Farmin

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http://hdl.handle.net/10138/221341
Title: Learning Challenges in Organic Vegetable Farmin
Author: Seppänen, Laura
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto Maaseudun tutkimus- ja koulutuskeskus
Date: 2004
Language: fi
Belongs to series: Publications 1
ISBN: 952-10-1647-7
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/221341
Abstract: The emergence and growth of organic farming is part of the rapidly changing picture and potential new functions of agriculture in industrialized countries. Agriculture and the technical cultivation issues in farming need to be seen and investigated more than ever in their societal contexts. It is assumed that the study of local and particular every-day practices in their evolving societal linkages is useful for both researchers and practitioners. Organic vegetable farming continuously faces internal and external changes in the form of developing techniques, new administrative and advisory systems, and marketing. The concept of learning is used to describe how change is dealt with, both theoretically and operationally. The aim of this research is to study change and learning processes and relevant developmental problems in organic vegetable farming. Challenges for learning are investigated as emergent phenomena in practical and collective farming activity. The substance and societal functions of organic vegetable farming are included in the concept of learning of this study. The present work is an exploratory qualitative longitudinal field study applying cultural-historical activity theory to organic vegetable farming. The methodology used consists of both ethnographic field work and systematic qualitative analyses of crop rotation planning sessions and organic inspections. The methods of analysis were created in the study itself. Learning is approached through object construction in organic vegetable farming in which two relevant and interrelated dimensions are examined. The dimension of the use of natural resources, mainly land, can be categorized into two historically formed layers that shape the object of farming: soil fertility, or maintenance of the resource base, and environmental protection. In the dimension of societal integration, three developmentally relevant categories emerge: market, administrative, and organic relations. The last consist mainly of relations with other organic farmers and advisors. The central contradictions found in organic vegetable farming were short-term and intensive use of resources as against ecological and sustained use, and independence and self-sufficiency as against societal integration. In local activities, they generate learning challenges that form the basis of significant learning. ‘System redesign’ and a long-term perspective, including planning, managing and implementing crop rotations are learning challenges. The findings suggest that subsidies, other farmers, and extension, education and research are learning challenges in societal integration. The processes of learning and development are often uncertain, complex and risky, and change is neither linear and nor predetermined. Learning in this study consists of expansive actions or practices that can be interpreted as moving towards both the ecological and sustained use of natural resources, and societal and entrepreneurial integration, in particular local farming activities in time and space. The purposeful creation of new reflective learning tools in this study is based on analyses of contradictions and learning challenges. Crop rotation plans are both learning tools and devices which evolve in cooperation between farmers, advisors and administrative agencies. The framework of the study (Figure 3, Section 2.1 of the thesis) is a model which can be used as a learning tool for reflection. Methods and tools for analyzing learning challenges are the results of the study. The visual learning diagrams ‘strategies for increasing product volume’ and ‘three orientations towards farm workers’ were created and used. Ways of communication such as ‘speech across the years’ and joint negotiation between the farmer and the inspector reveal interesting possibilities for talk-based learning tools. The findings suggest that learning in organic vegetable farming is a continuous, dynamic process. What needs to be learned is partly created by the farmers and other participants. The activity theoretical concept of the object has potential for seeing both the material and the social aspects in the formation of the farming activity. By its activity theoretical interpretation of organic vegetable farming, and by offering tools for reflection, the present work contributes to understanding and discussion of development of organic farming.


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