Topic: Using multi-level perspective to understand differing degrees of organic adoption in the Danish dairy cattle and pig sectors
Keywords: Multi-level perspective, sustainable transitions, rural transformation
Farmers’ incomes from standard agricultural products are decreasing, which is causing rural landscapes to change. Various notions have been proposed to describe this change, including ‘post-productivism’, and ‘multifunctionality’ or ‘rural eco-economy’. In order to understand what might constitute current and future sustainable rural transformation, it is important to understand past agricultural transitions. This study takes a historical look at transitions in Danish agriculture from the 1800s to present day in order to understand how transitions occur over time and how social, cultural, political, and economic factors at local, meso-, and macro-levels effect change.
Before the 1870s, Denmark predominately grew grain for export. After the grain crisis, where cheap grain was dumped on the European market, the composition of Denmark’s farming industry changed dramatically. Pigs and dairy cattle became the country’s primary agricultural sectors. Livestock were turned into value-added products – bacon and butter – mainly for export. Both the pig sector and the dairy cattle sector have development structures that have persisted for decades. However, the dairy cattle industry has easily incorporated organics into its structure, while the pig industry has not. This study explores the interactions of niche innovations and social movements, meso-level regimes, and socio-technical landscapes to understand transformation processes in agriculture. Specifically, this study uses a multi-level perspective to understand why and how 11 percent of Danish dairy cattle farmers have transitioned to organic production while less than one percent of Danish pig farmers have done the same. This historical perspective of Denmark’s transition from grain to livestock and then the differing degrees of adoption of organic practices by the dairy cattle and pig sectors can provide insights into current and future rural transformations. This in turn can help shed light on the degree to which provenance foods could play a role in fostering change in rural economies.