Have farmers had enough of experts?

Rust, Niki A, Stankovics, Petra, Jarvis, Rebecca M, Morris-Trainor, Zara, de Vries, Jasper R, Ingram, Julie ORCID: 0000-0003-0712-4789, Mills, Jane ORCID: 0000-0003-3835-3058, Glikman, Jenny A, Parkinson, Joy, Toth, Zoltan, Hansda, Regina, McMorran, Rob, Glass, Jayne and Reed, Mark S (2022) Have farmers had enough of experts? Environmental Management, 69 (1). pp. 31-44. doi:10.1007/s00267-021-01546-y

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The exponential rise of information available means we can now, in theory, access knowledge on almost any question we ask. However, as the amount of unverified information increases, so too does the challenge in deciding which information to trust. Farmers, when learning about agricultural innovations, have historically relied on in-person advice from traditional ‘experts’, such as agricultural advisers, to inform farm management. As more farmers go online for information, it is not clear whether they are now using digital information to corroborate in-person advice from traditional ‘experts’, or if they are foregoing ‘expert’ advice in preference for peer-generated information. To fill this knowledge gap, we sought to understand how farmers in two contrasting European countries (Hungary and the UK) learnt about sustainable soil innovations and who influenced them to innovate. Through interviews with 82 respondents, we found farmers in both countries regularly used online sources to access soil information; some were prompted to change their soil management by farmer social media ‘influencers’. However, online information and interactions were not usually the main factor influencing farmers to change their practices. Farmers placed most trust in other farmers to learn about new soil practices and were less trusting of traditional ‘experts’, particularly agricultural researchers from academic and government institutions, who they believed were not empathetic towards farmers’ needs. We suggest that some farmers may indeed have had enough of traditional ‘experts’, instead relying more on their own peer networks to learn and innovate. We discuss ways to improve trustworthy knowledge exchange between agricultural stakeholders to increase uptake of sustainable soil management practices, while acknowledging the value of peer influence and online interactions for innovation and trust building.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Innovation; Social learning; Social media; Sustainable agriculture; Technology adoption; Trust; Soil management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Rhiannon Goodland
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2021 15:46
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2022 17:13
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/10244

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