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Agri-Environmental Management in Southern Ontario: Enhanced Program Participation through Better Understanding of Dairy Farmers’ Social Dynamics

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Title: Agri-Environmental Management in Southern Ontario: Enhanced Program Participation through Better Understanding of Dairy Farmers’ Social Dynamics
Author: Juhasz, Mark
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Program: Rural Studies
Advisor: Cummings, Harry
Abstract: This research advances agri-environmental management processes by increasing awareness of changes in farming practice due to the influence of social network dynamics. This research analyzes social network factors in three interconnected components. The first is an examination of the social structural influences on change. Theories of habitus and field in decision-making are used to understand the socio-economic factors that influence individual farmers. The second component examines the development and evolution of social innovation processes. This is achieved through studying and measuring the social factors that influence decision-making within farmer networks. The third component examines farmers’ perception of agri-environmental programming, and how a better understanding of it can lead to greater adaptive management capacity for programmers. To accomplish these objectives, this research looked at the dynamics of farmer response to participation in three agri-environmental programs in Ontario: the Environmental Farm Plan, the Rural Water Quality Program, and the Clean Water Program. A mixed-methods approach was used, including a combination of preliminary interviews, semi-structured interviews, workshops, and a survey questionnaire. The original hypothesis assumed that more socially connected farmers would also be more inclined to participate in agri-environmental programs; however, this assumption was not completely supported. One observation from the research is that knowledge and innovation in environmental farming practice is shifting from formalized, bureaucracy-centred sources of information, toward decentralized, context-specific learning through personalized social networks. Policy recommendations include understanding the detailed, place-specific requirements needed to mobilize agri-environmental innovation. These recommendations include factors such as the need for monitoring, evaluation, knowledge relevance, adaptive planning, and using a hybrid of both old and new means of extension, outreach and communication.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/7859
Date: 2014-02
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