31 July 2019
Best in class

Irish organic farming student wins top prize

31 July 2019
HAWL bursaries

Bursaries offered for three-day homoeopathy courses



21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

Parcipatory Research: Making Research Relevant, Practical & Applicable

The session was chaired by Mark Measures and included contributions from four speakers who each contributed different experiences of participatory research. Bruce Pearce gave a perspective which showed the increasing development (by ORC) of participatory partnerships with farmers. Gareth Davies reflected on the multiple methods of interaction with farmers which were employed in the effective Weeds Management project of HDRA. Mette Vaarst showed how international experience in Farmer Field Schools could be effectively transferred to Europe in an action research and learning programme. The farmer, David Wilson related his experience with researchers over 24 years by showing increasing confidence about the importance of early and continuing farmer engagement in the process of on-farm research.

Participatory Research: making research relevant, practical and applicable . Session chaired by Mark Measures . We had four speakers who each contributed different experiences of participatory research in which researcher and farmer roles and perspectives ranged between cooperation in researcher directed research to co-learning in researcher-farmer partnerships.

Bruce Pearce. (ORC) . A researcher perspective.

Experience from a series of policy and researcher designed projects in which there was an increasing degree and farmer involvement in design of treatments and assessment of outcomes.
Key issues and lessons:

  • how to manage expectations,
  • ownership of process,
  • need for scientific rigour as defined by researchers,
  • training opportunities for all participants,
  • dissemination of results,
  • approach was not easy for researchers and needed big effort,
  • experience had resulted in a network of collaborating farmers

Gareth Davies (GO/HDRA). Experiences with organic weed management

Initial discussion of the distinction between conventional research practice and farmer driven innovation. Each partner has different needs and each works in a different context, but they can be usefully brought together for mutual learning.
Key issues and lessons:

  • Use of multiple methods of interaction between researchers and farmers, including : case studies, literature review, monitoring as a partnership, farm walks, farmer led trials, researcher trails, documentation, access and dissemination of outputs
  • Productive mutual learning from the experience
  • Valuable new information generated

Mette Vaarst. (Aarhus University). Farmer Field Schools: action research and partnerships.

FFS developed in Asia and Africa as farmer learning and innovation method. Important basis in social science as it has several intended outcomes including farmer empowerment. Examples from Uganda and Denmark. Different environment and contexts but same principles of the approach.
Key issues and lessons:

  • Understanding how farmers learn in farmersí world
  • All participants learn something new
  • Building of social capital
  • Generation of new knowledge in systems context

David Wilson. (Farmer, Duchy Home Farm).

Experience from 24 year collaborative research with Elm Farm and other institutions. Range of relationships in research from researcher managed activity to genuine partnerships.
Key issues, lessons and advice:

  • Farmers should get involved early in the process
  • Enjoy it
  • Do not undervalue farmer contributions
  • Keep anecdotal evidence
  • Keep good records including a diary
  • Ask questions always
  • Never assume that researchers know what they are doing

Discussion:
The group agreed that research benefited from continuing engagement between researchers and farmers and that in the UK we could often improve the relationship between the actors. Researchers and farmers could learn much from closer interaction in any research activity which took place on farms. An understanding of the roles that researchers and farmers can play need to be established early on in any collaboration. A few researchers/extensionists and institutions in the UK had developed important farmer networks which could be utilised on an on going basis for future research and development activities. It was noted that in the US and the Netherlands farmer groups could come together, demand research assistance and receive resources to address defined problems. Such mechanisms are not available in the UK but should be pursued.

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