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FarmPath – Farming Transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe

View over fields towards a hill
FarmPath aims to identify and assess future transition pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe.

The overall goal of FarmPath is to identify and assess future transition pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe, and the social and technological innovation needs required to initiate and progress along these pathways. It is funded by European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme and will run from March 2011- May 2014.

Project objectives

  • To develop a conceptual framework integrating transition management concepts with recent literature on agri-food regimes, resilience and farm-level transitions.
  • To develop a research sub-focus on young farmers and new entrants.
  • Undertake empirical research in clusters of case studies in seven different European countries (Bulgaria, Czech Reuplic, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal and UK) looking at changes to agricultural production or marketing practices which have been under-taken by a considerable number of farmers in each region to increase the economic, social and/ or environmental sustainability of agriculture.
  • To develop evidence-based policy recommendations at farming system, regional, national and EU levels for identifying and pursuing future transition pathways and social and technological innovation needs.
  • To provide resources for policymakers, academics and other stakeholders in order to develop their understanding and enable the pursuit of transition towards regional sustainability of agriculture in their own efforts and organisations.


Methods used included literature and content review, key informant interviews, focus groups, scenario workshops across the seven European countries and transdisciplinary research. 

Key findings (ongoing)

In Scotland on-farm renewable energy, lifestyle land management and formal collaboration were studied. Key findings so far include:

  • Machinery rings emerged in the 1980s and have become a mainstream form of service provider in the agriculture sector. They are suggested to be different from other forms of agricultural cooperatives, particularly in relation to the relative flexibility members hold. It is particularly appealing to farmers in North East Scotland to be able to participate, and still maintain their autonomy in decision-making.
  • On-farm renewable energy production contributes to decentralisation of energy production in general, but can contribute to increased intensification of agriculture, as large-scale, owner operated farms are most likely to be able to access the capital required for commercial-scale developments.
  • Young farmers and new entrants, despite being enthusiastic are largely excluded from renewable energy production due to the high investment costs.
  • Farmers with wind turbines identify their motivations as a form of ‘future-proofing’ their farms, securing a reliable income for themselves and their family members. They are foreseeing energy produced being used on farm in future, and thus reducing their vulnerability to rising energy costs. Environmental considerations were also important, but as secondary to the longer term economic opportunities of renewable energy production.
  • Lifestyle land management is not limited to small-scale holdings, existing across the range of holding sizes.
  • Lifestyle farmers can perform important rural functions, such as planting trees, creating wildlife habitats, and preserving rare breeds
  • Lifestyle farmers do not usually receive subsidies and therefore are not regulated or monitored. As they are often newcomers to farming, they are also not included in traditional agricultural knowledge systems 

Staff involved

Lee-Ann Sutherland, Kirsty Holstead, Annie McKee, Sharon Flanigan, Bill Slee, Rachel Creaney

Key contacts

Lee-Ann Sutherland

Project Information
Project Type: 
Archived Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.