Reshaping a farming culture through participatory extension: An institutional logics perspective

Jorie Knook*, James A. Turner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
82 Downloads (Pure)


Historically the dominant farming culture in Western developed countries, such as Scotland and New Zealand, has been based on maximising food production and maintaining the family business. However, this culture of production and family is under pressure from societal calls to increase the uptake of environmental practices in farm management. The pressure is leading farmers to adopt environmental practices, which causes a clash with the beliefs and values underlying the culture of production and family business. This clash is problematic, as it might form a barrier to sustained environmental change, for which not only practice change is required, but also a change in beliefs and values guiding the farming culture. This study explores the clash using an institutional perspective to: i) analyse how farmer practices, beliefs and values change due to external pressure to adopt environmental practices; ii) identify mechanisms via which this change unfolds; and iii) understand the role of participatory extension programmes in this change. An institutional perspective enables this study to move beyond the role of individual's attitudes and behaviours in adoption of environmental practices, towards considering how farmers' practices, beliefs and values together constitute the culture of farming, and how these are shaped by societal and institutional mechanisms. Twenty Scottish and 52 New Zealand farmers participated in qualitative, open-ended interviews and were observed during discussion groups or advisory meetings. Our findings show that all farmers are guided by a ‘business’, ‘lifestyle’ and/or ‘learning’ logic. The institutional clash influenced practices underlying the business logic to change from being purely based on maximising productivity, to including environmental aspects. However, no change in values was observed. Participatory extension programmes influenced practices, beliefs and values underlying the learning logic (changing from a ‘linear’ to ‘multi-actor’ logic) and thus can help facilitate more effective practice change by providing support via micro-mechanisms and enabling dynamics. The study contributes to current literature by introducing a new lens for understanding change induced by participatory extension programmes and by providing change agents, such as extensionists, with more in-depth knowledge about the main logics guiding the culture of farming, and the mechanisms by which farmer practices, beliefs and values may change. The in depth-knowledge will help to communicate, frame and organise extension initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date17 Jul 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Aug 2020


  • Bottom-up processes
  • Discussion groups
  • Institutional change
  • Institutional logics
  • Participatory extension
  • Practice change


Dive into the research topics of 'Reshaping a farming culture through participatory extension: An institutional logics perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this