Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 445–459 | Cite as

Socio-cultural processes behind the differential distribution of organic farming in Denmark: a case study

  • Marie-Louise Risgaard
  • Pia Frederiksen
  • Pernille Kaltoft


Conversion to organic farming, along with its associated driving forces and barriers, has been explored intensively over the past decade, while studies on the distribution and impacts of local socio-cultural processes in relation to conversion to and diffusion of organic farming have been scarce. The concentration of organic farms in Denmark differs according to county and, moreover, there appears to be large within-county variation in the density of organic farms. The present study explores local aspects of conversion to organic farming and the factors that may help explain variation in density and concentration of organic farms within smaller areas. The study is based on nine qualitative interviews with organic farmers from two neighboring areas, referred to as “mainland” and “island,” respectively. Three farms were situated in the high-density area (mainland) and the remaining six in the low-density area (island). Furthermore, five advisors with connections to the area provided information with regard to their local experience and perceptions. Three main, and to some extent interacting, issues are discussed. The first is the price of land related to local scarcity of land, in the context of structural development and the effects of agricultural policies. The second is distance – both physical and social. Cooperation and exchange of experience among organic farmers was frequent on the mainland side, while isolation and lack of interaction was more common for the island farmers. Third, the role of the agricultural advisory service and the existence of champion farmers are important: pioneer farmers on the mainland have been supported by committed agricultural advisors, while lack of organic champion farmers and low priority granted to organic farming among agricultural advisors were found on the island.


Differential distribution Diffusion Organic farming Socio-cultural processes 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beauchesne A., C. Bryant (1999). Agriculture and innovation in the urban fringe: The case of organic farming in Quebec, Canada. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 90:320–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blekesaune, A. and B. Vartdal (1992). “Sociale sider ved økologisk landbruk. Ein sociologisk studie av omleggingsprocessen (Social aspects of organic farming. A sociological study of the conversion process).” Rapport 1/92, Senter for Bygdeforskning, Universitetet i Trondheim, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  3. Burton M., D. Rigby, T. Young (1999). Analysis of the determinants of adoption of organic horticultural techniques in the United Kingdom. Journal of Agricultural Economics 50:48–63Google Scholar
  4. Cudjoe F., F. Rees (1992) How important is organic farming in Great Britain? Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 83:13–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DAAS (Danish Agricultural Advisory Service) (2004). Danish Agricultural Advisory Service. Retrieved from 00 on December 21, 2005
  6. Danish Agriculture (2005). Danish Agriculture. English Summary. Retrieved from on December 21, 2005Google Scholar
  7. Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. (1999). Aktionsplan II – økologi i udvikling (Action Plan II. Developments in Organic Farming). Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and FisheriesGoogle Scholar
  8. Danish Plant Directorate (2003). Autoriserede økologiske bedrifter (Certified organic farms). Retrieved from on November 2, 2003Google Scholar
  9. DARCOF (Danish Research Center for Organic Farming) (n.d.). Nature Quality in Organic Farming. Retrieved from on June 26, 2005Google Scholar
  10. DFFE (Directorate for Food, Fisheries and Agribusiness) (2001). Effektevaluering af arealtilskud til økologisk jordbrug (Impact evaluation of area subsidies to organic agriculture). Copenhagen, Denmark: Directorate for Food, Fisheries and Agribusiness, Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and FisheriesGoogle Scholar
  11. DST (Statistics Denmark). (1999). Statistisk Årbog 1999 (Statistical Yearbook 1999). Copenhagen, Denmark: Danmarks StatistikGoogle Scholar
  12. DST (Statistics Denmark) (2004). Økologiske brug 2003. Nyt fra Danmarks Statistik. Emnegruppe: MiljØ og energi (Organic farms 2003. News from Statistics Denmark. Issue group: Environment and Energy). Nr. 253, June 8, 2004. Retrieved from on April 15, 2005Google Scholar
  13. Duram L. A. (2000). Agents’ perception of structure: How Illinois organic farmers view political, economic, social, and ecological factors. Agriculture and Human Values 17:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eneroth, B. (1987). Hur mäter man “vackert”? Grundbok i kvalitativ metod (How is “beautiful” Measured? Basics in Qualitative Method). Stockholm, Sweden: Bokförlaget Natur och KulturGoogle Scholar
  15. Fairweather J. R. (1999). Understanding how farmers choose between organic and conventional production: Results from New Zealand and policy implications. Agriculture and Human Values 16:51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fairweather, J. R. and H. Campbell (1996). “The decision making of organic and conventional agricultural producers.” Research Report No. 233, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  17. Fisher, P. (1989). “Barriers to the adoption of organic farming in Canterbury.” Summary of a Masters of Applied Science Thesis, Center for Resource Management, Lincoln College, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  18. Flaten, O., G. Lien, M. Ebbesvik, M. Koesling, and P. S. Valle (2004). “Characteristics, goals, motivations and attitudes among organic dairy farmers in Norway.” Paper presented at the Post-Organic Future Working Group, XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, July 25–30, 2004, Trondheim, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  19. Flyvbjerg, B. (1991). Rationalitet og Magt. Det Konkretes Videnskab (Rationality and Power. The Science of the Tangible). Vol. 1. Odense, Denmark: Akademisk ForlagGoogle Scholar
  20. Fog, E. (2004). Økologiske landmænds tilfredshed med den Økologiske rådgivning. Hovedresultater (Organic farmers’ satisfaction with the organic advisory service. Main results). Retrieved from on March 16, 2005Google Scholar
  21. Frederiksen P., V. Langer (2004). Localization and concentration of organic farming in the 1990’s – the Danish case. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 95(5):539–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hansen, L. (2003). Først med hjernen – så med hjertet. Et antropologisk speciale om konventionelle landmænds erfaringer med omlægning til økologisk jordbrug (First with the brain, then with the heart. An anthropological thesis on conventional farmers’ experiences with conversion to organic farming). Master’s thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  23. Ilbery B. W., L. Holloway, R. Arber (1999). The geography of organic farming in England and Wales in the 1990’s. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 90:285–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones, D. (2003). “Organic agriculture, sustainability and policy.” In OECD, Organic Agriculture. Sustainability, Markets and Policies (pp. 17–30). Wallingford, UK: CABI PublishingGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaltoft P. (1999). Values about nature in organic farming practice and knowledge. Sociologia Ruralis 39(1):39–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kaltoft, P. (1997). Naturetik som praksisbegreb. En undersøgelse af naturforståelse, praksis og viden i økologisk jordbrug (Ethics of nature as a concept of practice. An investigation of views of nature, practice and knowledge in organic farming). PhD dissertation, Institut for Teknologi og Samfund, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Lyngby, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  27. Kaltoft P., M. -L. Risgaard (2006). Has organic farming modernized itself out of business? – reverting to conventional methods in Denmark. In G. Holt, M. Reed (eds) Sociological Perspectives of Organic Agriculture: From Pioneer to Policy. (pp. 126–142). Wallingford, UK: CABI PublishingGoogle Scholar
  28. Kledal, P. R. (2000). “Økologisk jordbrug for fremtiden? – en Økonomisk analyse af de potentielle Økologiske jordbrugere (Organic farming for the future? – an economic analysis of potential organic farmers).” Working Paper 8, Danish Food and Resource Economics Institute, Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  29. Klett, M. (2000). “The roots of ecological-biodynamic farming and its future perspectives.” In T. Alföldi, W. Lockeretz and U. Niggli (eds.), IFOAM 2000 – The World Grows Organic. Proceedings of the 13 th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, August 28–31, 2000 (pp. 697–699). Basel, Switzerland: IOS-PressGoogle Scholar
  30. Kristensen, L. R. (1998). Den økologiske sektors status i Sønderjylland (The state of the organic sector in Southern Jutland). Delprojekt 1. Denmark: Vesteregnens Erhvervsknudepunkt TønderGoogle Scholar
  31. Kvale, S. (1994). InterView. En introduction til det kvalitative forskningsinterview (An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing). Copenhagen, Denmark: Hans Reitzels Forlag a/sGoogle Scholar
  32. Lampkin, N. (1993). The Economic Implications of Conversion from Conventional to Organic Farming Systems. PhD dissertation, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UKGoogle Scholar
  33. Lampkin N., M. Measures (2001). 2001 Organic Farm Management Handbook. Aberystwyth, UK: Organic Advisory Centre, University of WalesGoogle Scholar
  34. Lauridsen, A. (2004). Agriculture in Denmark, 2003–2004. Retrieved from on May 5, 2005Google Scholar
  35. Lund V., S. Hemlin, W. Lockeretz (2002). Organic livestock production as viewed by Swedish farmers and organic initiators. Agriculture and Human Values 19:255–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Løes, A. (1992). “Aktuelle omleggingsproblemer – en spørreundersøkelse. 30 bruks-prosjektet. Kartlegging og utvikling av økologisk landbruk (Present problems in conversion – a survey. 30 farms project. Mapping and development of organic agriculture).” Rapport 9, Norsk senter for økologisk landbruk, Tingvoll, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  37. Madsen, U. (2003). “En thybos drømme. Historien om ‹Æ Verdensuniversitet’ – fortalt af stifteren Aage Rosendal Nielsen (The dreams of a Thybo inhabitant. The history of the World University).” J.A.K. Bladet nr. 3, Landsforeningen J.A.K. Retrieved from on April 15, 2005Google Scholar
  38. Michelsen J. (2001). Organic farming in a regulatory perspective. The Danish case. Sociologia Ruralis 41(1):62–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Michelsen, J. and H. Rasmussen (2003). “Nyomlagte danske økologiske jordbrugere 1998. En beskrivelse baseret på en spørgeskemaundersøgelse” (Recently converted Danish organic farmers 1998. A description based on a questionnaire). Politologiske skrifter. No. 4, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  40. Michelsen, J., K. Lynggaard, S. Padel, and C. Foster (2001). Organic Farming Development and Agricultural Institutions in Europe: A Study of Six Countries. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 9. Stuttgart, Germany: Department of Farm Economics, University of HohenheimGoogle Scholar
  41. Midmore P., S. Padel, H. McCalman, J. Isherwood, S. Fowler, N. Lampkin (2001). Attitudes towards conversion to organic production systems: a study of farmers in England. Aberystwyth, UK Institute of Rural Studies, University of WalesGoogle Scholar
  42. Neuerburg W., S. Padel (1992). Organicsh-biologisher Landbau in der Praxis (Organic Farming in Practice). München, Germany: BLV VerlagsgesellschaftGoogle Scholar
  43. Nielsen, N., P. Skautrup, and P. Engelstoft (1961). Thisted Amt (Thisted County). J. P. Trap Danmark. 5th edition, Vol. 6. Copenhagen, Denmark: G.E.C. Gads ForlagGoogle Scholar
  44. Noe, E. (1999). Værdier, Rationalitet og Landbrugsproduktion. Belyst ved en mikrosociologisk undersøgelse blandt danske økologiske og konventionelle kvægbrugere (Values, Rationality and Farming. Examined in a micro sociological study of organic and conventional dairy farmers). PhD Dissertation, Department of Economic and Natural Resources, the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  45. Noe, E. (2000). “The organic network in Lemvig.” In F. Just, (ed.), Farmers’ Networking and Sustainable Agriculture in Denmark. National Report with Case Studies, Conclusions and Recommendations (pp. 64–79). Retrieved from on May 13, 2007Google Scholar
  46. Noe, E. (2003). Organic Farming in Denmark: Enhancement or Dissolution? A Survey Among Organic Farmers. Retrieved from on November 12, 2004Google Scholar
  47. Nyblom J., S. Borgatti, J. Roslakka, M. A. Salo (2003). Statistical analysis of network data – An application to diffusion of innovation. Social Networks 25:175–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) (2001). OECD Environment Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. Retrieved from on May 26, 2005Google Scholar
  49. Oldrup, H. (2000). “Case study 3. The organic fresh food terminal in Soenderjylland – transforming marketing networks.” Research report, Institute of Political Analysis, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  50. Østergaard, E. (1998). To skritt frem og ett tilbake. En fænomenologisk undersØgelse af bØnder i omstilling til Økologisk landbruk (Two steps forward and one step back. A phenomenological investigation of farmers under conversion to organic farming). PhD dissertation, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Agricultural University of Norway, Ås, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  51. Padel S. (2001). Conversion to organic farming: A typical example of the diffusion of an innovation? Sociologia Ruralis 41(1):40–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Padel S., N. H. Lampkin (1994). Conversion to organic farming: An overview. In N. H. Lampkin, S. Padel (eds) The Economics of Organic Farming. An International Perspective (pp. 295–313). Wallingford, UK: CABI InternationalGoogle Scholar
  53. Raupp, J. (2000). “The well-proportioned farm organization just a pleasing image of a mixed faming system or rather a basic requirement for functioning organic husbandry.” In T. Alföldi, W. Lockeretz, and U. Niggli (eds.), IFOAM 2000 – The World Grows Organic. Proceedings of the 13th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, August 28–31, 2000 (pp. 700–703). Basel, Switzerland: IOS-PressGoogle Scholar
  54. Regouin, E. (2003). “To convert or not to convert to organic farming.” In OECD, Organic Agriculture. Sustainability, Markets and Policies (pp. 227–235). Wallingford, UK: CABI PublishingGoogle Scholar
  55. Rigby D., T. Young, M. Burton (2001). The development of and prospects for organic farming in the UK. Food Policy 26:599–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Serup, T. (2004). Nyt koncept der giver bedre økonomi og velfærd (A new concept producing improved economy and welfare). økologi Kongres. Retrieved from on January 6, 2006Google Scholar
  57. Siebeneicher G. E. (1996). Det økologiske jordbrugs pionerer (The pioneers of organic farming). Global økologi 3(September):10–13Google Scholar
  58. Strukturdirektoratet (1998). Landbrugets strukturudvikling (The structural development in agriculture). Betænkning nr. 1351 fra Udvalget vedrørende landbrugets strukturudvikling, Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and FisheriesGoogle Scholar
  59. Tress, B. (1999). Landwirtschaft-landschaft: Umstellungspotential und landschaftliche Konsequenzen der ökologischen Landwirtschaft in Dänemark (Farm-landscape: consequences of organic farming in Denmark for conversion potential and landscape). PhD dissertation, Department of Geography and International Development Studies, Roskilde University, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  60. Tvedegaard, N. (2001). “Driftsøkonomiske konsekvenser ved omlægning til økologisk jordbrug (Farm economic consequences of conversion to organic farming).” In J. Christensen and S. E. Frandsen (eds.), økonomiske perspektiver for økologisk jordbrug (Economic perspectives for organic farming) (pp. 33–48). Report 124. Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Food and Resource Economics Institute, Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and FisheriesGoogle Scholar
  61. Vestergaard, J., M. S. Linneberg, and R. G. Nielsen (forthcoming). “The laggards are coming and what’s next? Conversion to organic farming in Denmark, future market developments and implications for other markets and EU policy.” Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. Google Scholar
  62. Wiborg, T. (2001). Hvad er væsentligst? – en empirisk undersøgelse af landmænds strategiske overvejelser (What is the most important? – an empirical investigation of farmers’ strategic considerations). Retrieved from on March 15, 2002Google Scholar
  63. Wynen E. (1992). Conversion to Organic Agriculture in Australia: Problems and Possibilities in the Cereal-Livestock Industry. Sydney, Australia: National Association for Sustainable AgricultureGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie-Louise Risgaard
    • 1
    • 3
  • Pia Frederiksen
    • 2
  • Pernille Kaltoft
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Policy AnalysisNational Environmental Research InstituteRoskildeDenmark
  3. 3.AugustenborgDenmark

Personalised recommendations