Authors: Paul Swagemakers, Maria Dolores Dominguez Garcia, Amanda Onofa Torres, Henk Oostindie and Jeroen C. J. Groot
 
Journal: Sustainability 2017, 9(11), 1987; doi:10.3390/su9111987
 
Publisher: MDPI AG
 
Abstract
 
The path to sustainable development involves creating coherence and synergies in the complex relationships between economic and ecological systems. In sustaining their farm businesses farmers’ differing values influence their decisions about agroecosystem management, leading them to adopt diverging farming practices.
 
This study explores the values of dairy and beef cattle farmers, the assumptions that underpin them, and the various ways that these lead farmers to combine food production with the provision of other ecosystem services, such as landscape conservation and biodiversity preservation. This paper draws on empirical research from Galicia (Spain), a marginal and mountainous European region whose livestock production system has undergone modernization in recent decades, exposing strategic economic, social and ecological vulnerabilities. It applies a Q-methodology to develop a values-based approach to farming.
 
Based on a sample of 24 livestock farmers, whose practices promote landscape conservation and/or biodiversity preservation, the Q-methodology allowed us to identify four ‘farming styles’. Further analysis of the practices of the farmers in these groups, based on additional farm data and interview material, suggests that all 24 farmers valorize landscape and nature and consider cattle production and nature conservation to be compatible within their own farm practices. However, the groups differed in the extent to which they have developed synergies between livestock farming and landscape conservation.
 
We conclude by discussing how rural development policy in Galicia could strengthen such practices by providing incentives to farmers and institutionally embedding a shift towards more diversified farming and product development.
 
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
 

Illustration Photo: Galician Dairy Cow (credits: ccdoh1 / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

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