Farming off the food crisis : exploring practitioners of agroecology in Ireland
Abstract: The many negative environmental and socioeconomic issues tied to practices of industrial agriculture have led to increased interests in alternative food systems (AFSs) to improve the social and ecological conditions of food production. Agroecology as one example of an alternative agricultural practice seeks to achieve these goals but is highly context dependent. This thesis therefore seeks to understand how practitioners of agroecology in the specific context of Ireland formulate understandings of and implement agroecology to promote the achievement of AFSs. It does this by asking what motivates farmers to practice agroecology in Ireland, how farmers utilize agroecology in building AFSs, and how participants perceive constraints they face. To answer these questions the study involved seven participants in semi-structured interviews to collect data which was then analysed through thematic coding analysis. The findings show that personal experiences, knowledge and values of the participants influenced their motivations to practice agroecology and seek to create alternatives to the dominant food system. Moreover, the findings demonstrate how perceived difficulties are located in structural processes of existing food systems and how community can play a key role in the achievement of several agroecological principles. These findings are relevant for rural development in that they showcase the values, motivations and practices within farming which are perceived to be systematically disadvantaged and underrepresented by institutions in favour of mainstream systems in agriculture, but also highlights the ways that local food producers seek to overcome these challenges in their efforts to bring about more just and sustainable food systems.
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