Social factors in the decision by Swiss farmers to convert to organic farming

Robert Home, Elke Ries, Anna Tschanz, Annina Indermühle


The number of organic farms in Switzerland has remained stable since 2009, although several studies have shown that financial arguments should mean that more farms convert to organic production. These results suggest that either farmers do not behave rationally, or there are other reasons that inhibit farmers from conversion. In this study, 39 organic and non-organic Swiss farmers were interviewed with the aim of identifying barriers to conversion and learning how these have been overcome. The results suggest that the structural conditions for conversion are in place but a range of social factors create barriers. These factors include negative attitudes towards organic farming held by family members; problems with mutual acceptance between organic and non-organic farmers; technical reasons such as fear of weed infestation; and a fear of losing independence. Organic farmers however suggested that these barriers are overestimated. Farmers who are considering conversion are reluctant to ask for advice because this is seen as an irreversible step to conversion. This allows the conclusion that informal events and platforms that enable communication between organic and non-organic farmers could inspire farmers to take the first steps.

Keywords: conversion, organic farming, barriers, enablers, motivations

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