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The accidental environmentalists: Factors affecting farmers’ adoption of pro-environmental activities in England and Ontario

Marr, Eric Joseph, Howley, Peter
Journal of rural studies 2019 v.68 pp. 100-111
case studies, cover crops, farmers, farms, interviews, lifestyle, pollinators, England, Ontario
Based on semi-structured interviews with 54 distinct actors in the UK and Canada, we identify a range of internal psychological orientations that are common (albeit to varying degrees) in both case study regions that, when taken together, provide a lens through which on-farm decisions relating to pro-environmental behaviours are internally analysed and subsequently operationalised. We label these orientations as Production, Business, Environmental, Lifestyle, and Farm Health. Through these orientations, we find farmers are often becoming ‘accidental environmentalists’ by undertaking many pro-environmental activities for non-environmental reasons. Prominent examples include adopting environmentally beneficial on-farm decisions to support field sports (i.e. shooting), pursuing production improvements with environmental spin-offs (e.g. cover crops, beneficial pollinators), or seeking improvements to personal or family health and well-being (e.g. reduced use of chemicals). This analysis therefore highlights the importance of not oversimplifying farmer motivations along a dualistic profit-seeking v stewardship divide when it comes to understanding environmental behaviour.