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Using fuzzy cognitive mapping and social capital to explain differences in sustainability perceptions between farmers in the northeast US and Denmark

Bonnie Averbuch (), Martin Hvarregaard Thorsøe () and Chris Kjeldsen ()
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Bonnie Averbuch: AU Foulum, Aarhus University
Martin Hvarregaard Thorsøe: AU Foulum, Aarhus University
Chris Kjeldsen: AU Foulum, Aarhus University

Agriculture and Human Values, 2022, vol. 39, issue 1, No 28, 435-453

Abstract: Abstract Farmers are key actors in the transition towards sustainable agricultural practices. Therefore, it is important to understand farmers’ motivations to encourage lasting change. This study investigated how farmers from the two different social contexts of the northeast US and Denmark perceive sustainability. Twenty farmers constructed Fuzzy Cognitive Maps to model their practices and perceived outcomes. The maps were analyzed using social capital as an analytical framework. The results showed that sustainability perceptions differed between US and Danish farmers. Specifically, Danish farmers focused mainly on environmental sustainability while US farmers distributed their focus more evenly across environmental, social, and economic factors. Further, US and Danish farmers had different notions of community engagement. US farmers emphasized the importance of interdependence with their non-farmer community members, where farmers contributed to the wellbeing and livelihoods of non-farmers and vice versa. For Danish farmers, the importance of community engagement lay mainly in localizing food systems, the public image of farming, and the cultural value of farms. Differences in the dominant types of social capital (farmer-to-government vs. farmer-to-non-farmer-community) can explain this pattern. We argue that understanding social capital and primary level of influence can lead to more effective and efficient policies.

Keywords: Fuzzy cognitive mapping; Sustainable agriculture; Social capital; Farmer perceptions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s10460-021-10264-4

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