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Sharon Flanigan

Staff picture: Sharon Flanigan
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Researcher in Rural Social Science
sharon.flanigan@hutton.ac.uk
+44 (0)1224 395301

The James Hutton Institute
Craigiebuckler
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK

 

I am a qualitative social scientist with a background in rural topics, primarily focussing on aspects of agriculture, tourism, and networking in rural areas. I completed my PhD ‘Developing and applying a framework for agritourism’ at The Macaulay Institute and University of Aberdeen in 2011. Since returning to the Institute’s Social Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) Department in 2018, following a career break with my kids, my research has focussed on a variety of topics including on-farm demonstration, new entrants to farming, landscape scale agri-environmental collaboration, and agricultural cooperatives. More information on my current projects is provided below.

I have continued to be involved in networking and project development focussing on agritourism, at a time when the sector has begun to develop at pace in Scotland (see Scottish Agritourism, Agritourism Monitor Farms,Go Rural). I approach this subject with both personal and professional interest in public interactions with farming in ways that support improved understanding of processes and wider issues connecting society with the environment. My research in this area also connects me with colleagues in Europe and the USA, with the aim of advancing international agritourism research and network development.

I have been involved with the James Hutton Institute (and formerly the Macaulay Institute) for almost 15 years as a research assistant, PhD student, and post-doctoral researcher. I am currently working at the Institute part-time (60% FTE), mostly based at the Aberdeen site.

Current research interests

 Learning and Change Through Monitor Farms

This research explores principles underlying learning and change in relation to facilitated peer-to-peer learning opportunities, such as Monitor Farms. In this work we reflect on features associated with successful on-farm demonstration events by focussing on three key areas, which allow us to look in detail at how and why farmers might implement new innovations and practices. These are: conducting soil assessment as an example of best practice; working together in innovative ways; and opportunities associated with different host farms and farmers. This research has being undertaken as part of EU H2020 ‘PLAID’ project (Peer-to-peer Learning: Accessing Innovation through Demonstration) (2017-2019), the Scottish Government Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme (2016-21), and in association with EU H2020‘NEFERTITI’ project (Networking European Farms to Enhance Cross Fertilisation and Innovation Uptake Through demonstration) (2018-21).

 

Co-operation and Co-operatives in Scottish Agriculture

Co-operative enterprises are not well understood in Scotland or the wider UK, despite their long history as a business model founded in principles of co-operation and shared economic benefits. This project was commissioned by SAOS (the Scottish Agriculture Organisation Society) in association with SEFARI Gateway to improve understanding of the value of co-operatives in Scotland in terms of their contribution to the agriculture sector and related supply chains; and their potential to generate economic and social benefits for those involved and the communities they are based. The findings will contribute towards these organisations’ aims to support a more productive, sustainable, competitive, and market-oriented industry. The project is being undertaken as a collaborative fellowship with Caroline Whitfield at SRUC (2020-21).

 

Adding value through agritourism at Glensaugh Farm

This project is a scoping study (2020-21) which aims to accumulate understanding of what Glensaugh farm has to offer consumers, tourists and other visitors by building on its ‘story’, past, present and future. The aim is to add value to the Climate-Positive Farming Initiative – which itself marks a significant moment in the Glensaugh story – by accumulating knowledge, experiences, and ideas relating to sustainable and sensitive agritourism and other product development. A range of voices representing the farm, research, history, and local area are being included and we envisage that those involved will have ongoing vested interest in the outcomes, in terms of product development and/or collaborative relations.

In a second phase of the project (2021-22), research will be undertaken in the Scottish Government Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme to investigate the consumer perspective, including demand for different types of agritourism across Scotland. This work will support sectoral development in Scottish agritourism though new understanding of the products and markets that make the sector unique, and the ways that agritourism providers can add value through interaction with farmers, farming environments, processes, and produce.  

 

Mountain Valorization through Interconnectedness and Green Growth (MOVING)

MOVING aims to build capacities and co-develop policy frameworks across Europe for the establishment of new or upgraded and upscaled value chains, contributing to resilience and sustainability of mountain areas, valorising local assets, and delivering private and public goods. Working with partners across Europe in this Horizon 2020-funded project, I am part of the Hutton team responsible for delivery of Work Package 4 (Participatory appraisal of vulnerability and performance of value chains).

 

Past research

Collaboration in machinery rings

This project explored machinery rings as a form of agricultural cooperative, which have emerged and evolved into large collaborative institutions since they were introduced in Scotland in the late 1980s. This formed part of a wider investigation of transitions in agriculture being undertaken in the EU FP7 FarmPath (Farming Transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe) project (2011-2014) and RESAS Environmental Change: Land Use research theme (2011-2016).

Developing social capital and reciprocity in agritourism communities

This project explored various aspects of social capital development and capital conversion towards understanding the role of social learning groups in supporting small businesses and the people behind them. This formed part of the RESAS Environmental Change: Economic Adaptation research theme (2011-2016).

Developing and applying a framework for agritourism

My PhD project first sought to enhance conceptual understanding of agritourism through development of a theoretical typology, which I then applied in Scotland to explore what drives different types of agritourism and how that can help to understand the public and private benefits generated. This project was funded by The Macaulay Development Trust (2008-2011).

Exploring economic and legislative aspects of deer management

This project included investigation of collaborative practices, venison production, and legislation to better understand the drivers and barriers affecting deer management in the UK. This research was undertaken as part of the RELU Collaborative frameworks in land management project (2006-2009).

Bibliography

  • Kuhfuss, L.; Piras, S.; Flanigan, S.; Hawes, C.; Begg, G. (2019) Pro-environmental practices among farmers at a landscape scale: why and how? An interdisciplinary review of the literature., Report for RESAS (143b, deliverable D6), Interdisciplinary Review of Existing Landscape Scale Interventions Delivering multiple Benefits, 37pp.
  • Sutherland, L-A.; Flanigan, S.; Brinks, H.; Kleshcheva, E.; Micheloni, C. (2018) WP3 Synthesis Report with supra-regional summaries., PLAID, EU Deliverable Report 3.4, Month 19, 32pp.
  • Flanigan, S.; Matthews, K.B. (2013) Planning to succeed agritourism (2011-2014). Mid-programme evaluation., Report to Scottish Enterprise, June 2013.
  • Matthews, K.B.; Artz, R.R.E.; Birch, A.N.E.; Blackstock, K.L.; Brooker, R.; Brown, I.; Cummins, R.; Flanigan, S.; Hallet, P.; Irvine, R.J.; Kenyon, W.; Pakeman, R.J., Prager, K.; Slee, B.; Squire, G.; Stutter, M.; Sutherland, L.; Thomson, K.; Towers, W.; Vinten, A.J.A. (2012) Developing agri-environmental measures for the next Scottish Rural Development Programme: a summary of relevant research findings from the James Hutton Institute., Report to the Scottish Government, Natural Resources Division, SRDP Technical Working Group (Agri-Environment), 11pp, 25 June 2012.
  • Flanigan, S.; Holstead, K.L. (2012) Results of focus group discussions to explore members' perceptions of machinery rings in relation to change, collaboration and sustainability., Report to Borders Machinery Ring (BMR): Summary of findings for machinery ring stakeholders.
  • Flanigan, S.; Holstead, K.L. (2012) Results of focus group discussions to explore members' perceptions of machinery rings in relation to change, collaboration and sustainability, Report to Ringlink: Summary of findings for machinery ring stakeholders.
  • Flanigan, S. (2012) Planning to succeed agritourism: Participants circumstances and expectations in year 1., Report to Scottish Enterprise, The Collection Limited and Planning to Succeed Group.

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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.