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Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 601–628 | Cite as

Experiential Science; Towards an Integration of Implicit and Reflected Practitioner-Expert Knowledge in the Scientific Development of Organic Farming

  • Ton Baars
Articles

Abstract

For further development of organic agriculture, it will become increasingly essential to integrate experienced innovative practitioners in research projects. The characteristics of this process of co-learning have been transformed into a research approach, theoretically conceptualized as “experiential science” (Baars 2007, Baars and Baars 2007). The approach integrates social sciences, natural sciences, and human sciences. It is derived from action research and belongs to the wider field of transdiscliplinary research. In a dialogue-based culture of equality and mutual exchange the principal of a “bottom-up” experiential learning process can be stimulated and fully reflective. It provides an opportunity to develop organic agriculture as multiple best-practices based on transdisciplinary projects, cases studies, and case series. The aim of the article is to describe the methodological characteristics and the theoretical and practical potential of experiential science for research in and development of organic farming. Three characteristic projects are outlined to illustrate the main elements of the methodology: the retrospective reflection on intuitive and experiential knowledge held by farmers; the knowledge derived from on-farm experimentation; the exchange of knowledge and experiences between farming pioneers within a “masterclass” setting. The study concludes that experiential science offers an important philosophical reconciliation process whereby a synthesis of different approaches to research becomes possible in solving real-life problems: quantitative and qualitative, subjective and objective, reductionistic and holistic, practice and science. Recognizing that there are multiple elements contributing to the process of acquiring knowledge, experiential science draws on a broad field of scientific methods thereby integrating the hermeneutic approach of social sciences and the Humanities with the established methods of contemporary natural science.

Keywords

Innovation systems Transdisciplinary research Decision making Philosophy of science Co-production of knowledge 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The scientific work was financed by private funding providers, farmers, banks, and state funding from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture. I am grateful to Elisabeth Alington, New Zealand for editing the English text. Great thanks to all the farmers and research colleagues who were my partners in the step-by-step, experiential development of this concept. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biodynamic AgricultureUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany

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