This article describes the feasibility of researchinto the relation between values of farmers andsustainability for the Dutch Ministry of Agricultureand the Dutch Federation of Agricultural andHorticultural Organisations.
Firstly, a theoretical framework describes differentlevels of motivation behind conduct and choices. Itenables exploration and analysis of individualinterviews with small groups of conventional andecological farmers. The aim is to find out what theirbasic convictions regarding nature and sustainabilityare, and to analyze the relation between theseconvictions and the actual choices they make in theirfarming practice. The research shows that for somefarmers, differences in farming practice go back to themotivation level of moral convictions about what is`good farming'. For others, the motivations for aspecific farming practice are more pragmatic or`superficial'. This knowledge can be of significancefor the process of policy making.
Secondly, this research demonstrates thatinvestigation into the relation between values andbehavioral choices is possible. The analysis ofinterviews among a small group of farmers gives anidea of the importance of personal values in additionto (and sometimes of more importance than) economicconsiderations. Due to the restricted size of theresearch population, however, these conclusions are oflimited generalizability. Finally, in order to make alarger research agenda possible, the research methodology isevaluated on the basis of scientific criteria.