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Using Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping and social capital to explain differences in sustainability perceptions between farmers in the northeast US and Denmark.

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Farmers are key actors in the transition towards sustainable agricultural practices. Therefore, it is important to understand
farmers’ motivations to encourage lasting change. This study investigated how farmers from the two diferent social contexts
of the northeast US and Denmark perceive sustainability. Twenty farmers constructed Fuzzy Cognitive Maps to model their
practices and perceived outcomes. The maps were analyzed using social capital as an analytical framework. The results
showed that sustainability perceptions difered between US and Danish farmers. Specifcally, Danish farmers focused mainly
on environmental sustainability while US farmers distributed their focus more evenly across environmental, social, and
economic factors. Further, US and Danish farmers had diferent notions of community engagement. US farmers emphasized
the importance of interdependence with their non-farmer community members, where farmers contributed to the wellbeing
and livelihoods of non-farmers and vice versa. For Danish farmers, the importance of community engagement lay mainly in
localizing food systems, the public image of farming, and the cultural value of farms. Diferences in the dominant types of
social capital (farmer-to-government vs. farmer-to-non-farmer-community) can explain this pattern. We argue that understanding social capital and primary level of infuence can lead to more efective and efcient policies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Pages (from-to)435-453
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

    Research areas

  • social capital, Farmer perceptions, Fuzzy cognitive mapping, Sustainable agriculture

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