Historicising Farming Styles

International Workshop in Melk/Austria, October 22-23, 2010

General Information


The workshop aims at assessing the concept of ‚farming styles’ as outlined by the Dutch sociologist Jan Douwe van der Ploeg from a historical perspective. In a couple of articles and, above all, in the monographs The Virtual Farmer (2003) and The New Peasantries (2008), the author provides a radical critique of conventional agronomy. Accordingly, conceiving farming as an application of fixed agronomic ‘rules’ neglects the creation of the everyday rules of farming by the actors themselves. The ways these rules are being imagined, negotiated and applied create coherent and distinctive linkages between symbolic, social and material elements of nature and society – in short, they create farming styles (‘machine men’, ‘cowmen’, ‘farming gently’ etc.).

The workshop is related to the three-years research project Farming Styles in
Austria, 1940s–1980s (2009–2011) located at the Institute of Rural History in St. Pölten (see www.ruralhistory.at). The project seeks to address the ‘great transformation’ of agriculture in the twentieth century, namely the formation of the ‘productivist’ food regime, from an actor-centred perspective by adopting a farming styles approach.

Therefore, the aim of the workshop is twofold: first, to discuss the ‘state of the art’ of farming styles research as represented by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg in general; second, to discuss case studies adopting the farming styles concept (
Karin Jürgens and Ernst Langthaler) and the mid-term results of the research project (Ulrich Schwarz, Rita Garstenauer and Sophie Kickinger) in particular. Discussants covering a broad range of academic disciplines (history, sociology, anthropology, agricultural economics, landscape planning etc.) have been invited in order to approach the complexity of farming.

Organising committee

Rita Garstenauer, Sophie Kickinger, Ernst Langthaler (corresponding organiser: ernst.langthaler@noel.gv.at) and Ulrich Schwarz


Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Institute of Rural History, St. Pölten



Thursday, October 21

18.30-20.00: Preparatory meeting of the contributors and discussants

Friday, October 22

9.00-9.45: Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Farming Styles Research: the State of the Art (keynote lecture)

9.45-10.30: Discussion

10.30-11.00: Coffee break

11.00-11.45: Karin Jürgens, New Balances Between Flexibility and Specialization: German Dairy Farmers and their Farming Styles

11.45-12.00: Peter Moser / Gertraud Seiser, Comments

12.00-12.30: Discussion

12.30-14.30: Lunch break

14.30-15.15: Ernst Langthaler, Hitler’s Oilseed-Growers. Farming Styles, Agrosystems and the Nazi Food Regime in Niederdonau, 1938-1945

15.15.-15.30: Arnd Bauerkämper / Markus Schermer, Comments

15.30-16.00: Discussion

16.00-16.30: Coffee break

16.30-17.15: Ulrich Schwarz, The Discursive Space of Farming: Analysis of a Lower Austrian Farmers’ Weekly, 1950s-1980s

17.15-17.30: Theresia Oedl-Wieser / Frank Uekötter, Comments

17.30-18.00: Discussion

Saturday, October 23

9.00-9.45: Sophie Kickinger, The Agrosystemic Space of Farming: Analysis of Farm Records in Two Lower Austrian Regions, 1945-1980s (Part I)

9.45-10.00: Ika Darnhofer / Martin Schmid, Comments

10.00-10.30: Discussion

10.30-11.00: Coffee break

11.00-11.45: Rita Garstenauer, The Agrosystemic Space of Farming: Analysis of Farm Records in Two Lower Austrian Regions, 1945-1980s (Part II)

11.45-12.00: Peter Kurz / Erich Landsteiner, Comments

12.00-12.30: Discussion

12.30-13.30: Lunch break

13.30-16.30: Excursion to a farm (website: www.hanfwelt.at) in one of the project's regions under study

16.30-17.00: Coffee break

17:00-17.30: Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Conclusion of the Workshop

17.30-18.00: Final discussion

18.00: End of the workshop


Invited discussants

Additional participants

A limited number of additional participants has been invited by the organisers on the basis of a letter of motivation:

Workshop report

Andreas Grünewald has published a workshop report at the internet forum H-SOZ-U-KULT.


Gertraud Seiser has taken a lot of photos of the workshop and the excursion; here is a selection. Click on the small picture to get a high-resolution picture: