Delivering an agricultural policy which meets ecosystem and climatic pressures and addresses weaknesses in our current food system presents complex challenges for food producers. Adoption of ecological practices will reduce the dependence on imports into the farm and is one way to meet some of these policy ambitions. Understanding why farmers do or don’t adopt these practices is key to enabling this transition. This study outlines a series of investigations into the key barriers, values and perceptions towards ecological practice adoption across European farming.
We find that personal, technical and institutional forces influence the adoption of more sustainable practices but these forces have varying levels of influence. The tensions between environmental, compared to purely production orientated motivations, may be a key barrier to ecological practice adoption. We also find a strong influence of commodity supply chains which may either encourage or limit adoption of these approaches. Promoting efforts for co-ordinated approaches between the public and private sectors may mitigate some of the dissonance in messaging towards these practices and alleviate these tensions. We also identify a great deal of heterogeneity within the European farming community and argue for a more targeted approach that would encourage adoption of ecological approaches and promote the scaling up of these practices.