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This page is no longer updated. The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute joined forces with SCRI joined forces on 1 April 2011 to create The James Hutton Institute. Please visit the James Hutton Institute website.

Monday 20th May 2024

Crofter and farmer culture: implications for agri-environment scheme

Project Contact

Sally Huband

Project Summary

Previous research at the Macaulay has explored farmers’ cultural resistance to voluntary agri-environment schemes (Burton et al., 2008). This work suggests that farmers can attain high social standing or cultural capital amongst their peers by visibly demonstrating that they are ‘good farmers’. For example, a field of healthy and weed free wheat with well executed tram lines symbolises good farming and the successful application of a farmer’s skills and knowledge.

In contrast, land managed for biodiversity conservation, as part of an agri-environment agreement, may even symbolise poor farming practice. Grass margins look unkempt in comparison to a well-managed arable crop and provide little opportunity for a farmer to visibly demonstrate skill and knowledge.  The prescriptive approach of agri-environment schemes constrains a farmer’s ability to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve the desired conservation outcome. This may prevent land management for biodiversity being incorporated into the meanings attached to good farming.

This research investigates the meanings attached to crofting and farming in areas in which farming and crofting practices can be described as having a high nature value*. In these areas, it is essential that crofters and farmers continue practices that are necessary for the conservation of specific habitats and species. It is critical, therefore, that voluntary agri-environment schemes in these areas do not detract from farmers‘ and crofters’ cultural capital. 
In-depth interviews with crofters and farmers will allow a comparison of the meanings attached to crofting and farming with the meanings attached to managing land for biodiversity conservation. Is there any complementarity between these meanings or are they in conflict with each other? Can agri-environment schemes be adapted to take in to account the cultural meanings attached to farming and crofting?


  • Burton, R.J., Kuczera, C. and Schwarz, G. (2008) Exploring Farmers’ Cultural Resistance to Voluntary Agri-environmental Schemes. Sociologia Ruralis. Volume 48, pages 16-37.
  • For information on the high nature value farming concept and an example of high nature value farming in Scotland visit the web pages of the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
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