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11.1 European Agriculture in Transition

Thursday, June 29, 2023
9:00 - 10:30


Carola Wilhelm
FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg

The regional dimension in GPN – mapping value creation and governance of the Bavarian beer sector


The current crises stimulate a new political and scientific interest in economic power structures and regionalisation (Gereffi 2023). This particularly concerns the local-global nexus, a key argument within the Global Production Networks (GPN) literature (Coe & Hess 2011, Coe & Yeung 2015, Henderson et al. 2002). Our main question is: How can global governance concepts they help to understand regional production networs within multiscale production processes? And how can global governance concepts be applied to regional (food) production processes? We examine value creation and governance mechanisms across stages and scales - beyond or ‘in the shade’ of the often-prevailing dominance of transnational lead firms.
We apply this question to the Bavarian beer industry. Our analyses of value creation and governance build on statistical data and expert interviews. We draw on three analytical dimensions from the GPN debate: corporate, institutional and collective power (Henderson et al. 2002, Gereffi et al. 2005). Our results are condensed using two non-cartographic visualisation approaches to guide interpretation.
We illustrate the local level not as just a market niche of a globalised economy or as a strategic location. Rather, the local level can be a hub for multi-layered dynamics in value creation and governance. Regional lead firms resort to hierarchical mechanisms. Nevertheless, long-term contracts prevail, which mutually benefit economic actors against fluctuations in the global market. Moreover, institutional governance is of great importance for the promotion of the local economy. The network, on the other hand, is represented by collectives but less influenced by their governance.
Dr. Camille Hochedez
University of Poitiers

Neo-peasant settlements, agricultural labour and the transition of agriculture. An analysis of lifestyle farmers in two French farming areas.


This paper sheds light on the role of agricultural labour in the process of transition, by showing that transitional agricultures are based on peasant work, which seeks well-being, comfort, meaning and the production of wealth that produces social relations as much as economic goods and food.
Based on the study of the trajectories of settlement of neo-farmers in organic market gardening in Northern Dordogne and of natural or organic neo-winegrowers in the Loire Valley (France), we analyse how alternatives practices reconfigure agricultural work. The results lead to three lines of analysis. Firstly, the implementation of agro-ecological practices expresses the rediscovered connexion to the living, as much as it allows to give meaning to work. Artisanal tasks are revalued, in comparison with jobs that these neo-farmers who have undergone professional reconversion previously exercised. These practices go in the direction of autonomy, empowerment and downshifting. Secondly, neo-peasants value freedom through work: agro-ecological practices allow them to be master of the organisation of labour on the farm. Thus, neo-peasant labour is a real work (H. Arendt) that allows for self-realisation. Finally, neo-peasant work claims the achievement of happiness through work, which places pleasure and meaning at the centre of the organisation of labour. In the end, agricultural labour is a tool for emancipation, both individually and collectively for groups traditionally minoritised in agriculture. This new organisation of work reconfigures the farm, which is no longer just a place of work and production, but also a place of life and a learning space.
Dr. Giuseppe Feola
Associate Professor
Utrecht University

Degrowth and agri-food system transitions: a research agenda


Degrowth has become a recognised paradigm for identifying and critiquing systemic unsustainability rooted in the capitalist, growth-compelled economy. Increasingly, degrowth is discussed in relation to specific economic sectors such as the agri-food system. This paper builds on the foundational work of Gerber (2020) and Nelson and Edwards (2021). While both publications take a rather specific analytical or disciplinary focus—the former specifically connects critical agrarian studies and degrowth, the latter explores the contributions of the recent volume ‘Food for degrowth’—this paper takes stock of the emerging body of literature on degrowth and agri-food systems more broadly. It proposes research avenues that deepen, expand and diversify degrowth research on agri-food systems in four areas: (i) degrowth conceptualisations; (ii) theorisation of transformations towards sustainability; (iii) the political economy of degrowth agri-food systems; and (iv) rurality and degrowth. Together, these avenues devote due attention to a variety of agents (ranging from translocal networks to non-humans), spaces (e.g. the rural), theories (e.g. sustainability transitions and transformations towards sustainability) and policies (of the agricultural sector and beyond) that thus far have received limited attention within the degrowth literature. The critical social science perspective on degrowth agri-food systems, which is advanced in this paper, illuminates that the present unsustainability and injustice of hegemonic agri-food systems are not merely a problem of that sector alone, but rather are ingrained in the social imaginaries of how economies and societies should work as well as in the political–economic structures that uphold and reproduce these imaginaries.
Sara Mikolič
Junior Researcher
University of Ljubljana

Knowledge networks of new entrants in agriculture


Understanding how the relationship between farmers and their enabling environment may facilitate (or restrain) innovation is a key for the sustainable transition of agriculture in Europe. This study draws on Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) literature to further the understanding of the development of personal knowledge networks by new entrants in agriculture. The role and influence of AKIS actors in the decision-making process of farmers is well studied, but these pathways specifically for newcomers are still poorly understood. Knowledge networks are crucial in the development of new entrants’ business and entry models and in both facilitating generational renewal and stimulating innovations in European agriculture.
In this study, the knowledge networks of 32 new entrants, including young farmers who took over established farms and implemented a new business model and farmers who started from scratch, from Belgium and Slovenia are identified. We collected data on the knowledge networks of these new farmers and an additional 25 established farmers as well as on the role of specific actors during the decision-making process of three recent innovations implemented on their farms. More specifically, whether these actors made an important contribution in the innovation implementation process. Through this, we aim to elucidate the potentially unique needs and challenges of new farmers’ knowledge network.
Our findings suggest that new entrants find ways to obtain knowledge outside of established knowledge networks. We question how to operationalize a knowledge network that is easily accessible and provides them with the necessary resources for a sustainable agriculture.

Session host

Martijn van der Heide
University of Groningen



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl