Good farming beyond farmland – Riparian environments and the concept of the ‘good farmer’

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A vibrant literature has emerged around Bourdieusian-inspired notions of the ‘good farmer’ and how such concepts might aid our understandings of agriculture and agricultural change. To date, however, studies of the good farmer have been framed largely in relation to land management, with little consideration given to riparian environments which make up a significant part of the farmed landscape. Drawing on in-depth interviews with farmers in a river catchment in the North of England (UK), this paper considers how farmers’ engagement with riparian environments on their farms feature in, and are (re)shaped by, notions of good farming. The paper observes how riparian environments’ (im)materiality, unpredictability and untidiness limit their ability to generate and exhibit capital(s) and how an infrequency of direct engagement with rivers – arguably reinforced through recent regulatory changes on what farmers can and cannot do to riparian environments – mean that farmers have often not developed skills and capitals associated with rivers in the same way that they have for land. These observations are used to consider farmers’ engagement with more recently introduced river health-enhancing managements and to consider whether, when taken together, we might be witnessing a shift in how riparian environments contribute to good farming and good farmer status.




Thomas, E., Riley, M., & Spees, J. (2019). Good farming beyond farmland – Riparian environments and the concept of the ‘good farmer.’ Journal of Rural Studies, 67, 111–119.

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