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Focus groups of value concepts of producers: National Report Netherlands

Langhout, J; Baars, T and Verhoog, H (2006) Focus groups of value concepts of producers: National Report Netherlands. EEC 2092/91 Organic Revision Internal Project Report), no. Related to D 2.1. Louis Bolk Institute LBI, NL-Driebergen .

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The Organic Revision project was funded by the EU with the aim of supporting the further development of the EU Regulation 2092/91 on organic production. As part of the project focus groups were run in five European countries on value concepts of organic producers and other stakeholders, during 2004-2005. The project aims to provide an overview of values held among organic stakeholders, and of similarities and differences among the various national and private organic standards.
In the Netherlands four focus groups were held, one pre-test with researchers, and three groups with established organic producers both of livestock and horticulture. It was not possible to recruit any newly converted producers to a meeting in the Netherlands.
The following conclusions were reached: Summarising the values in the words of the participants of these focus groups, organic agriculture could be defined as follows:
"Organic agriculture is about producing endlessly, with care and respect for humans, animals, plants and soil. Organic farmers produce healthy and tasty food without harming the environment or the development of others. Their farms and agriculture in general are
inter-connected with small and big world problems."
Overall there seem to be many similarities between the groups. Values related to all principles were discussed in all the groups; the differences observed were related to the different backgrounds.
The researchers spoke about their own experiences from work but also about their ideas from a consumer’s point of view. For the dairy farmers animal welfare was an important value while soil was more important to the arable farmers. Also with regard to the values nearness and proximity, differences between arable and dairy farmers seemed to reflect their daily practice. Arable farmers are faced with an anonymous market, with high and changing quality standards of the trade, and regard local production and consumption as a solution to their problems. The other groups of farmers also support this quest for another economic system. The researchers mention the unrealistic ideas of consumers concerning organic agriculture and they wonder how to make consumers more aware. The farmers would like to educate the consumer more, also about the relation of production in their country compared with production and development elsewhere. The farmers see the inter-connectedness of agriculture with income and development in developing countries very clearly and for some this was an important argument to convert. The farmers have a great feeling of responsibility for the world (ecologically and socially). For all of them the intentions are more important than the norms.
On the basis of the coding, it appears that values in relation to three principles were most important in the discussion. These are the ecology principle, holism and systems approach and professional pride, in order of importance. The following values were mentioned in relation to the principle of ecology: Recycling (the cycle) and saving energy were of major importance and nature conservation or nature integration on the farm was an important aim for some farmers. Co-operation between arable and animal production is seen as a very important means to close the cycle. And in the Netherlands with far going specialisation of farms this is sometimes a real challenge. Conflicts with the economy easily arise but also conflicts with national legislation restrict the farmers in their development. The values itself are not experienced as restricting. All groups except for the arable farmers see a combination and balance of all principles as important in the future. Arable farmers see the soil as most important and other values as complementary. All groups of experienced farmers were worried about new converters, who seem to stick to the minimum values, as a threat to their profession. All participants seem to have the feeling to be part of the good guys and are being recognised by society in that way. They are proud of their profession and the sector. For the continuation of the sector a clear distinction from conventional agriculture is needed, but they are not afraid that conventional moves in the direction of organic.
For the future, steady development and growth is preferred above fast growth. Others should also get the chance and time to develop in the way they did, but the new converters should not decrease the credibility of organic. Therefore, acceptable minimum rules should do justice to the values held by the sector as a whole.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Netherlands; focus group; conversion; growth; motives; attitude; market; values
Subjects:"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Netherlands
Values, standards and certification > Regulation
Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Systems research and participatory research
Research affiliation: European Union > Organic Revision
Netherlands > Louis Bolk Institute
UK > Univ. Aberystwyth > Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)
Denmark > ICROFS - International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems
Related Links:http://www.organic-revision.org
Deposited By: Padel, Dr Susanne
ID Code:10992
Deposited On:09 Jul 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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