These are two research projects I've been involved with at INRA. Field work on these projects has been completed; write-up is ongoing. It's been fascinating to observe the similarities and differences between farming systems in the US, in the UK and in France.
Traceability and recordkeeping among dairy farmers in England and France
Farmers today are subject to a wide array of traceability and recordkeeping requirements, whether or not they choose to participate in value-added programs such as organic certification. This two-year study looked at traceability issues and recordkeeping practices among dairy farmers producing milk for cheese in northern Burgundy and northwest England. We were interested in how farmers perceive, define and manage traceability; in the factors contributing to differential impacts of traceability regimes on farmers' livelihoods; and in how other food-system actors (processors, retailers, regulators, inspectors, consumers) intervene and participate in traceability processes. In addition, we sought to consider our subject historically, examining how different geographic and economic pressures in the two regions have shaped farmers' decisions to focus on either milk or cheese production over time.
Soil-management practices and socio-technical networks among wine-grape growers in Languedoc
My work on this project was part of a larger study of water-quality issues in Languedoc-Roussillon, the largest wine-grape growing region in France and one that has been hit hard by problems of over-production. A combination of regulatory pressures and financial incentives are encouraging farmers to reduce or eliminate herbicide use, but many areas are too dry to permit the use of grass strips between the rows during the height of the growing season. My colleagues and I are interested in how farmers' socio-technical networks influence their soil-management decisions.
All photos by Laura B. Sayre.