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Sustainable organic hill and upland farming - A collaborative case study approach - OF0326

Description
It is DEFRA policy is to support sustainable farming methods (including organic farming) that benefit the environment and that provide a competitive and safe food supply chain which meets consumer requirements. The development of organic farming in the hills and uplands has been under-pinned by government support during the period of conversion from conventional to organic status (e.g. the Organic Farming Scheme). For many extensively managed hill and upland organic units the move to organic production systems has not required a substantial change in farm management policy or major loss of physical output during the early years following conversion. Despite this, organic price premiums per unit output (e.g. higher price/kg for beef and lamb) have not in themselves been enough to ensure the economic sustainability of many organic farms, as many farmers may have hoped. However, some farms have been able to make a profit within the current economic context and the key aspects of organic systems and management which result in economic viability remain to be defined in detail. The objective of the research proposed is to identify and analyse the physical, financial and underlying management and structural factors which contribute to economically sustainable organic farming systems in the hills and uplands. This will be addressed by working with a reference group of six progressive organic farmers to allow an in-depth case-study assessment of each farming system and business on a detailed individual basis. Key drivers of both the physical and economically sustainable management of organic hill and upland farming systems will be distilled and communicated to the industry helping to stabilise and enhance organic systems of management in these areas.

DEFRA's aim and objectives include the promotion of sustainable, modern and adaptable farming which ensures high standards of animal health and welfare along with the protection and improvement of the rural environment. Where organic hill and upland farming systems can be developed which are both economically and environmentally sustainable then hill and upland farmers have the opportunity to implement systems which contribute to all of these fundamental objectives. Taken along with results from the Redesdale core organic project, this research will identify best practice, provide a substantive baseline of both physical and economic performance on-farm in relation to previous survey results and support policymaking on organic farming.
Objective
The overall objective is to identify and detail the physical, financial and strategic factors which contribute to economically sustainable organic farming systems in the hills and uplands. This will be addressed by working with a reference group of six progressive organic farmers to allow an in-depth case study assessment of each farming system and business. Data from each farm will be related to average data from other sources such as the Organic Farm Management Handbook3 and a series of participative group meetings will seek to identify, understand and document the underlying factors which are critical to the current and future success of organic farming systems in the hills and uplands.

Specific objectives are:-

1. to gather physical data in relation to each farm

2. to quantify key management and decision variables for each farm

3. to assess key financial variables contributing to economic performance for each farm

4. to provide an substantive baseline against which to quantify economic sustainability within the reference
group of organic hill and upland farms and across the hill and upland organic sector generally

5. to identify and evaluate factors contributing to economic sustainability and technical performance across the organic hill and upland sector

6. to relate the data collected from these farms to the core Redesdale organic project

7. to model financial performance of these organic farms under a range of "what if" or sensitivity analysis scenarios

8. to extract messages and transfer this knowledge to stakeholders.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Sustainable organic hill and upland farming - a collaborative approach   (343k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2005

Cost: £121,434
Contractor / Funded Organisations
ADAS UK Ltd.
Keywords
Animal Production              
Farming              
Hill Farming              
Organic Farming              
Upland              
Fields of Study
Organic Farming