Approaching Multifunctionality by a ‘Normative View’: Finnish Farmers’ Visions on Contemporary Agriculture

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Abstract

Productivity alone is not the most important defining character of contemporary agriculture. On the grounds of the dominant models of market liberalization and multifunctionality, farmers have been urged to take new roles beyond food production. By deploying a ’normative’ view of multifunctionality, based on the acknowledgment of spatial heterogeneity, and on an actor-oriented explanation of agricultural change, this paper investigates Finnish farmers’ visions on the redefined and redifining role of contemporary agriculture. From a review and anaylsis of sixteen qualitative semi-structured interviews, it emerges that such visions — through their components of identity, opponent, and project — are constructed upon three factors which are linked to each other to a various extent: 1) farming contingent conditions (as location, climate, terrain); 2) externalities (including international policy environment, and market liberalization); 3) farmers’ personal views on profitability and risk. In a policy context dominated by uncertainty, decision-making has shifted mainly from the national to the international level, and the collected data supports the dominance of productivist actions and thoughts. On one hand, farmers still tend to prioritize the continuity of production, which contribute both to resistance identity, and to the identification of a variety of opponents. Yet on the other hand, farmers are, to an embryonic stage, upgrading themselves to meet the challenges faced by contemporary agriculture.

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