Exploring environmental perspectives in lowland agriculture: A Q methodology study in East Anglia, UK

Ben Davies, I. D. Hodge

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102 Citations (Scopus)


The role of agriculture in rural areas is changing significantly in Europe, with environmental protection and enhancement, and provision of amenity and recreation increasingly emphasized both in public debate and in new policy initiatives. Faced by these shifting priorities, it is increasing important to understand how farmers themselves perceive their roles in relation to environmental management in particular. As recent research in New Institutional Economics has shown [Frey, B.S., 1997. Not just for the Money. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.], policy assumptions and instruments that are at odds with the underlying motivations of agents may actually reduce achievement of policy objectives if they act to degrade beneficial norms or alter the basis on which agents make choices. Understanding how farmers conceive of their environmental rights and responsibilities is therefore important in helping to design agri-environmental measures that can complement, rather than conflict, with the underlying normative assumptions that farmers themselves hold. This study employs Q methodology to investigate the perceptual frameworks of a sample of UK arable and mixed lowland farmers regarding the appropriate way in which to approach the environmental management of agricultural land. The Q analysis identifies five distinct perspectives on notions of agricultural stewardship; we term these Environmentalists, Progressives, Commodity Conservationists, Jeffersonians and Yeomen. We discuss the main characteristics of these groups and comment on these results in the context of current UK agri-environmental policy, which is changing both the presumptions of farmers' entitlements to agricultural payments, and the expectations pertaining to fanners in relation to environmental responsibilities. In conclusion, we suggest that Q methodology can be a valuable way of demonstrating the nature of the mental frameworks of actors in a particular context and this enables us to formulate some important questions regarding the motivations of land managers in the context of a rapidly changing rural policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-333
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number2-3
Early online date5 May 2006
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Q methodology
  • fanning
  • environmental policy
  • attitudes
  • stewardship
  • farmers conservation behavior
  • paradigms
  • countryside
  • adherence


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