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Planning for the future? The emergence of shared visions for agriculture in the urban-influenced Ontario’s Greenbelt, Canada, and Toulouse InterSCoT, France

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In urban-influenced areas, farmers face new opportunities and constraints that shape their farming styles. In this article, we investigate the impact of two planning strategies, Ontario’s Greenbelt, Canada, and Toulouse InterSCoT, France, on farmers’ investment and discuss the consistency of farmers’ strategies and territorial projects. A theoretical approach centered on J.R. Commons’ concept of Futurity is operationalized with mental modeling during 41 in-depth interviews with farmers. The results show that farming styles, which reflect farmers’ adaptation to their urban-influenced environment, stem in both jurisdictions from farmers’ values, attitudes, skills, and norms. The differences in investment decisions revealed in the respective planning strategies highlight that Ontario’s Greenbelt zoning is not sufficient to preserve urban-influenced farming, while in Toulouse InterSCoT, the viability of farmers’ projects depends on the alignment of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders’ representations of agriculture. The shared territorial vision of the agricultural landscape stemming from such an alignment may help mitigate potential conflicts while supporting farmers’ projects that contribute to this vision. The importance of a shared vision of the future supporting multifunctional agriculture emerged in both jurisdictions.

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  1. Despite conceptual proximities, the concepts of amenities and ecosystem services are different; the overlapping of these concepts has not yet been investigated in depth (Schaeffer and Dissart 2018).

  2. Jongeneel et al. (2008) define time inconsistency as the possibility that regulations and public support unexpectedly shift.

  3. In this article, we adopt the psychological perspective wherein psyche is understood as a landscape (Kaplan et al. 2017).

  4. Although factors identified by farmers are connected by causality arrows, we preferred to not to use the term causal models given that the collected models resulted from the elicitation of farmers’ own perception of their farming projects. Hence, causal relationships on one map could conflict with causal relationships on other maps. In our opinion, this subjectivity is better captured through the term mental maps.

  5. At the exception of a specialized and intensive tomato production unit with a land base of 10 ha.

  6. Following the definition of the Ontario CSA farm directory, Community Supported Agriculture is a partnership between farmers looking for stable markets and consumers seeking good quality safe food. Food boxes are delivered every week and both parties share the risks of production.

  7. Eco-grazing is where the maintenance of public or private green space is done by grazing animals instead of mechanical equipment.

  8. SMI is a threshold that aimed to determine the minimum size necessary for a farmer to make a living using conventional agricultural practices and taking into account farm type and the geographical characteristics of farm location.


  10. The commodification of agricultural knowledge is a fragmentation of knowledge and a decrease in information sharing resulting from a withdrawal of the State and an increased role of private commercial service providers.


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The authors would like to thank all the participants for their time and commitment. The MARSUPIA project was funded by the European’ Commission Research Executive Agency (Grant Marie Curie – IOF 622830).

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Correspondence to Mikaël Akimowicz.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Farmland Management

Appendix. Factors used for mental modeling

Appendix. Factors used for mental modeling

Table 3 Classification of factors used for the mental modeling activities

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Akimowicz, M., Képhaliacos, C., Landman, K. et al. Planning for the future? The emergence of shared visions for agriculture in the urban-influenced Ontario’s Greenbelt, Canada, and Toulouse InterSCoT, France. Reg Environ Change 20, 57 (2020).

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