The 'Neighbourhood Effect': A multidisciplinary assessment of the case for farmer co-ordination in agri-environmental programmes

Lee Ann Sutherland*, Doreen Gabriel, Laura Hathaway-Jenkins, Unai Pascual, Ulrich Schmutz, Dan Rigby, Richard Godwin, Steven M. Sait, Ruben Sakrabani, William E. Kunin, Tim G. Benton, Sigrid Stagl

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


In this paper we present a multi-disciplinary analysis of the potential impacts of undertaking similar environmental actions on multiple farms in a small geographic area, using organic farming as a proxy for a co-ordinated approach. Recent papers have called for more co-ordinated efforts between farmers in terms of their environmental actions, but there has been limited applied research demonstrating the environmental benefits or the economic and social implications to farmers of this approach. Comparative analysis of biodiversity, soil and water, and farm profitability were undertaken in England on 32 matched farms in areas of low and high organic farming concentration; qualitative interviews were also conducted with 48 farmers living in two of the eight areas. Findings demonstrate higher overall levels of biodiversity on organic farms (particularly in " hotspot" areas) but this was not universal across the species groups investigated. Higher water infiltration rates were found in organic grasslands, which could prove to be a useful measure to combat flooding. In terms of the technical efficiency of producing these environmental gains, conventional and organic farms in hotspot areas demonstrated equivalent efficiency from a financial perspective. Socio-cultural research identified the different amounts of trust farmers have in their neighbours, based in part on their performance as 'good farmers'. We discuss the neighbourhood effect with a multi-disciplinary approach and conclude that encouraging local farmer co-ordination can have clear environmental benefits without high economic cost, but must be undertaken with caution - specifically regarding the trade-offs between benefits, local geophysical and social characteristics, and assumptions made about inter-farmer trust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-512
Number of pages11
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Agri-environmental schemes
  • Biodiversity
  • Farmer co-ordination
  • Landscape
  • Multidisciplinary research
  • Organic farming

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