Organic Farmers' Experiments

Historically, farmers’ experiments have been the means through which locally adapted farming systems worldwide developed. Farmers’ experimentation is the process by which local people informally conduct trials or tests with their own methods. Farmers’ experiments can be defined as the activity of trying or introducing something totally or partially new at the farm, including evaluation of the success or failure of this introduction.

Farmers need the ability to experiment in order to find their own creative solutions for their specific conditions and emerging problems. This project investigates topics, motives, methods and outcomes of farmers’ experiments, and the factors influencing organic farmers when they experiment. Furthermore it is examined, if and how experimentation can be a strategy to cope with ongoing change.

The "farmers' experiments" FWF team

from left to right: Christian R. Vogl, Elena Sanz Soro, Katrin Hasenhündl, Susanne Kummer, Friedrich Leitgeb, Racheli Ninio


See full list of publications HERE

The project

Organic Farmers' Experiments - Learning Local Knowledge in Austria, Israel, and Cuba

An international comparative research project funded by the FWF (Austrian Science Fund

Data about the project in BOKUs Research Database

Team: Racheli Ninio, Susanne Kummer, Friedrich Leitgeb and Christian R. Vogl
Working Group for Knowledge Systems and Innovations
Institute for Organic Farming
Department for Sustainable Agriculture Systems
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences / BOKU

A basic research project, which aims at generating empirical knowledge on the processes by which organic farmers’ local knowledge is created, and hence to contribute to the study of agricultural innovation and experimentation in particular, and to the broad study of the processes of knowledge generation.

Farmers' experiments are one important source of information and knowledge that supports the evolution of agricultural practices and systems. A better understanding of processes of agricultural innovation and experimentation could contribute to the study of the process and intervening variables of knowledge generation.

Farmers defined organic agriculture long before institutional research did. Most of the organic agriculture improvements seen in the past decades have arisen without the support of policies. The organic farming movement and actors have coped with challenging issues and made advances and innovations in organic farming. For that reason, we believe that organic farmers hold a large body of knowledge of their local environment, conditions, problems, and priorities, and that they are actively engaged in experimentation as part of their farming routine.

We believe that learning from this highly dynamic, innovative, and successful movement about their research topics, methods and outcomes, could help us understand the role that experimentation plays as a mode of learning and creative innovation. These learning processes do not stop at the farm boundaries, or at the local level. Organic farming has spread worldwide, and yet maintained its basic principles.

The research takes place in Austria, Israel and Cuba. The countries were selected to represent organic farmers in different environmental conditions; different agricultural systems; different socio-economic conditions and different phase of the organic farming movement.

Annoucements and calls

Students interested in organic farmers' experiments are highly welcome to join our team for their masters thesis, PhD thesis or seminar paper!


Poster of the project

Students' exhibition about farmers' experiments

In 2007 students of the lecture "Projekt Ökologische Landwirtschaft" produced an exhibition and a brochure about organic farmers' experiments and innovations.