Mid last month, the Food Values Research group was pleased to host Rebecca Paxton, a doctoral candidate from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Rebecca presented some of the data she has gathered during her PhD project, looking at holistic/systemic models of health and how Austrian organic farmers incorporate health promotion into their practices.
She took us through her data gathering process, with some background on the region and the impacts this context has on the forms that organic farming takes there. She talked about different aspects of health that these farmers highlighted – from the personal to the systemic – and the importance that the concept of “healthy soil” plays in the ways they talk about the overall health of their farm system and produce. She also discussed some of the paradoxes and difficulties that emerge in organic farming practice around health, and how the philosophical commitments health beliefs frame and constrain solutions to these. She focussed in on several case studies to highlight the creative ways that farmers and communities work around stressors, including changes to the scope of their practices and produce and widening their networks. Finally, she shared some of her recent research on the potential and difficulties involved in building more resilient and expansive support and information-sharing Austrian organic farming communities.