Can a ‘good farmer’ be nature-inclusive? Shifting cultural norms in farming in The Netherlands

Westerink, Judith; Pleijte, Marcel; Schrijver, Raymond; Dam, Rosalie van; Krom, Michiel de; Boer, Tineke de


In this article we investigate whether the Dutch policy concept of ‘nature-inclusive farming’, involving biodiversity-enhancing forms of agriculture, can become part of ‘good farming’ norms in Dutch farming culture. We interviewed 24 Dutch farmers individually as well as in focus groups in four case study regions in the Netherlands. Based on a qualitative analysis, we found confirmation of findings of studies elsewhere in terms of the presence of production-oriented conceptions of ‘the good farmer’ and ‘a good landscape’, which, in general, discourage biodiversity-friendly behaviour. Yet, we also found indications that pursuing biodiversity objectives is becoming part of what it means to be ‘a good farmer’ and to cultivate ‘a good landscape’. We found these changing norms amongst farmers who participate in collective agri-environmental management. We propose that the Dutch agri-environmental collectives foster the development of nature-inclusive cultural capital: the skill to create landscapes that host biodiversity as well as to recognize and appreciate that skill on the land of others. Our insights into farmers' cultural norms and the way that they change are helpful in the development of governance strategies that promote nature-inclusive farming.