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How broadening social connections changes farmers’ conceptions about biodiversity.

Multiple links to biodiversity explored through the different socioprofessional paths of farmers


The relationship between agriculture and biodiversity divides opinion among farmers. Our research proposes to describe and interpret these opinions, with regard to the diversity of the social backgrounds of the producers, with the hypothesis that interactions with local, non-agricultural individuals help shape these opinions. From 14 interviews carried out with farmers engaged in actions to preserve biodiversity in three territories in the West of France, we identify four different occupational conceptions, characterized by knowledge and taking natural entities into account, through the values and vision of the role that farmers intend to play with regard to biodiversity and way in which they would like this issue to be handled by society. While the role of peer networks in the construction of job conceptions is well established, our research shows that understanding the attitudes of agricultural professionals today requires a consideration of the role that experience and interactions with those outside the agricultural professional sphere play.

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Data availability

The data are verbatim of interviews. Given the monographic nature of the research, the interviews cannot be anonymized. The data are therefore not available.


  1. Insee, enquête FQP 2014–2015

  2. Nature et Progrès’ Open letter (co-signed by 20 associations) for the attention of the Agriculture Minister, 22nd January 2013.

  3. Law no. 2014–1170, 13th October 2014 ‘d’avenir pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et la forêt’.

  4. In 2012, the LPO edited a « manifesto for an agriculture in respect of Nature and Humanity » in which agro-ecology is cited as a way to promote ( In 2013, the LPO is signatory of Nature et progrès’ open letter previously mentioned.

  5. The naturalistic and environmental knowledge he has previously built assures him recognition from non-agricultural actors.

  6. This type of farmer has an interest in encouraging strong societal requirements, as long as his agro-ecology project would benefit. At the forefront of agro-ecology claiming the importance of new modes of governance, it is sure to capture territorial resources available to support the transition to agro-ecology if such a definition were chosen.

  7. Some farmers of this type settled directly after their studies.

  8. Four of the five farmers associated with this type, settled in the 1980s–1990s. After this generation of farmers, would follow their children, heirs not of intensive agriculture but of agroecology. Their commitment to agroecology is therefore seen as an obvious choice. A young farmer interviewee therefore settled directly into agro-ecology, mastered the techniques associated with it and quickly integrated his father’s socio-professional (local) networks.

  9. It could be ‘gentle mowing’, a centrifugal mowing technique (going from the centre to the periphery), or equipment with scaring bars allowing animals to escape and join a refuge area.

  10. Statistics from the regional transmission installation observatory produced by the Pays de la Loire Chamber of Agriculture from 2014 to 2017.


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This article presents the results of the research project ‘Preserving biodiversity and producing food goods: analysis of the development conditions, functioning and ecological and socio-economic effects of non-institutionalised territorial approaches in Pays de la Loire’, in response the BEAUTOUR call for projects (Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Agriculture, Town planning, Territory: a Work and Union Tool for Research). This project was funded by Pays de la Loire Region and piloted by the LPO Pays de la Loire.

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Bertille Thareau directed the research and contributed to the article writing. Clara Pailleux did the fieldwork and contributed to the writing. Guilhem Anzalone contributed to the research and writing.

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Correspondence to Bertille Thareau.

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Authors and one of the major actors cited in this article—LPO—were partners in this project. The implications of this situation are developed in the present article.

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Thareau, B., Pailleux, C. & Anzalone, G. How broadening social connections changes farmers’ conceptions about biodiversity. . Rev Agric Food Environ Stud 101, 241–259 (2020).

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  • Occupational conception
  • Socio-professional path
  • Agro-ecology
  • Social network
  • Professional knowledge