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Title: 'Good farming' beyond farmland : exploring farmers' knowledge(s) and practices in relation to rivers and riparian environments
Author: Thomas, Emma
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 0098
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis takes a social science perspective to consider farmers’ engagements with riparian environments. It has been widely recognised in recent literature that farmers have a crucial role to play in providing more environmentally-sensitive forms of agri-environmental management. Whilst social scientists have begun to make significant contributions to these discussions, they have focused largely on terrestrial environments, with little detailed discussion of rivers and riparian environments. The thesis considers a catchment in the North West of England (UK) and uses in-depth qualitative, on-farm, interviews with 64 farmers, to make a number of contributions to our broader understandings. First, it offers a methodological contribution – reflecting on the merits and challenges of doing ‘on-farm’, emplaced, interviews. Specifically, the thesis contributes to the discussion of interviewer positionality – introducing the idea of ‘geographical ignorance’ as a way of positioning, simultaneously, as both ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ - and also to the discussion of research emplacement by considering the challenges and benefits of interviewing on the farm. Second, the thesis observes how riparian environments' (im)materiality, unpredictability and untidiness limit their ability to generate and exhibit capital(s) and how an infrequency of direct engagement with rivers – arguably reinforced through recent regulatory changes on what farmers can and cannot do to riparian environments – mean that farmers have often not developed skills and capitals associated with rivers in the same way that they have for land. These observations are used to consider farmers' engagement with more recently introduced river health-enhancing managements and to consider whether, when taken together, we might be witnessing a shift in how riparian environments contribute to good farming and good farmer status. The thesis has also found that sustainable managements have the capacity to dovetail with pre-exiting symbols of good farming, creating win-win scenario/s that benefit river health and accord with a good farmer identity. Thirdly, through a consideration of the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) initiative, the thesis considers how farmers engage with, utilise and share knowledge, noting a general receptiveness to the knowledge offered by CSF advisors, but highlighting the importance of specific contexts and personal relationships within this process and how farmers may hold different knowledge practices in relation to different parts of their farm. The thesis further illustrates that specific places and spatial contexts are important to how knowledge is taken on and reworked, and changing regulations and environmental conditions, the paper suggests, may be reshaping what knowledges farmers draw on and trust.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral