Happy to announce another paper out of our Reconciling HM project, based on work Carolyn Mann led after her MSc. Our overarching question for her work has been, “are HM farmers born or made?” and that has indeed been an elusive question to answer. We started by talking to HM trainers across North America, and certainly learned that the paradigmatic shifts are seen as the most important by trainers but also more challenging to teach and to adopt than grazing skills; that work was published in Sustainability last year.
This new paper, recently out in Ecology & Society, used Q method with a set of HM trainers, as well as farmers variously identifying as HM or ‘somewhat HM’. Sorting of statements about farming that were selected as being generically systems or traditional in nature revealed archetypes that reveal the trainers to be firmly systems experts, and trainees to be more weakly aligned with systems thinking though in some cases aspirational. Our question remains: does HM training attract those with the capacity for systems thinkers, which will necessarily be a subset of all farmers, or can it indeed be taught?
Archetypal land sparing in the southeastern Australian grazing landscape.
Back in 2014 colleagues at Leuphana and I had a chapter accepted in a volume of Ecological Reviews on Agricultural Resilience: perspectives from ecology and economics. I’m delighted to be able to report that the volume is finally published, five years later. Our chapter looks at the resilience implications of land sharing and land sparing, using as a case study the southeastern sheep-wheat belt where co-author Joern Fischer and I did our postdocs back at ANU in the late 2000s. We compared grazing archetypes of land sparing (fencing out dense woodlands for protection while continuously grazing the rest; see above) and land sharing (farmers using HM, who grazed intensively and rotationally pretty much everywhere on their farms, supporting scattered trees and their recruitment but few dense woodlands; see below). The resilience implications of these options are analyzed, integrating ecology, economics and social dimensions, and consistent with where the broader sharing/sparing debate has settled, reached the conclusion that a diversity of approaches is needed for system-wide sustainability.
Archetypal land sharing in the southeastern Australian grazing landscape thanks to HM to the left of the fence.
Some of my favourite parts of the chapter are the sample quotes included on the social challenges of adopting HM practices that draw from my 2008 photo-elicitation interviews with graziers across a range of practices. They speak to the mundane yet powerful barriers of change that come from our need for relationships and respect: for instance, not having anything to talk to conventional farmers about at BBQs (“what will I open with?”), or having people think they’ve “lost the plot” and feeling the pressure after HM training to “go like a sheep and follow the rest” rather than convert. Such pressures align with some of what we’re hearing from HM trainers, too.
Wes Tourangeau presenting on the Falklands at Animals and Us.
Right before I headed to Montreal, postdoc Wes Tourangeau represented the team at Animals and Us: Research, Policy, and Practice, a meeting at the University of Windsor. He presented Watching, wearing, eating: The ethics of wildlife tourism, wool, and mutton based on our Falklands case study work. Thanks, Wes.
Kristine Dahl, Masters candidate at U of A, photographed at SRM back in 2011
Congratulations to Kristine Dahl, MSc candidate on the SSHRC-funded Reconciling HM project, for winning the AltaLink Master’s Scholarship in Rangeland Disturbance Ecology. Kristine is based at the University of Alberta, supervised by project collaborators John Parkins and Ed Bork. She has just had a busy mixed-methods field season interviewing western ranchers about their grazing practices and decision-making as well as undertaking rangeland assessments. Not many people are able to do both well. Glad to have her on the team.
The cover of the third RHoMPAS report, also led by Carlisle Kent.
Carlisle and I are happy to finally release her third report for my sustainable grazing project, which is based on research she undertook in winter 2016, The View from the Farm Sector: Discourse in Producer Organizations around Climate, Science and Agricultural Policy, 2010-2015. We were interested in looking for the farmer’s voice in Canadian discourses around grazing and climate change. We decided in the end to do so via producer organizations who give voice to widely distributed individual producers. This report describes the discourse by farming organizations around climate, and resulting hardships, as they are expressed to a range of audiences, across different scales (Canada and Alberta) and commodity groups. We collected almost a hundred documents that represented the climate-related public and policy engagement of Canadian and Albertan livestock producer organizations from 2010 to 2015. We did not seek to track any trajectory over that time, because of small and/or uneven numbers of documents in any given year, but rather use those documents to take a snapshot of discourse. Interesting patterns arose around which organization types are talking about climate versus weather, and to whom, and what sorts of interventions they thought might help the farming sector.