A framework to assess the resilience of farming systems

Authors Organisations
  • Miranda P. M. Meuwissen(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Peter H. Feindt(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
    Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Alisa Spiegel(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Catrien J. A. M. Termeer(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Erik Mathijs(Author)
    KU Leuven
  • Yann de Mey(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Robert Finger(Author)
    ETH Zurich
  • Alfons Balmann(Author)
    Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies
  • Erwin Wauters(Author)
    Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries Research (ILVO)
  • Julie Urquhart(Author)
    University of Gloucestershire
  • Mauro Vigani(Author)
    University of Gloucestershire
  • Katarzyna Zawalińska(Author)
    Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Hugo Herrera(Author)
    University of Bergen
  • Pip Nicholas-Davies(Author)
  • Helena Hansson(Author)
    Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Wim Paas(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Thomas Slijper(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Isabeau Coopmans(Author)
    KU Leuven
  • Willemijn Vroege(Author)
    ETH Zurich
  • Anna Ciechomska(Author)
    Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Francesco Accatino(Author)
    Université Paris‐Saclay
  • Birgit Kopainsky(Author)
    University of Bergen
  • P,. Marijn Pootvliet(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Jeroen J. L. Candel(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
  • Damian Maye(Author)
    University of Gloucestershire
  • Simone Severini(Author)
    Università degli Studi della Tuscia
  • Saverio Senni(Author)
    Università degli Studi della Tuscia
  • Bárbara Soriano(Author)
    Technical University of Madrid
  • Carl-Johan Lagerkvist(Author)
    Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Mariya Peneva(Author)
    University of National and World Economy
  • Camelia Gavrilescu(Author)
    Institute of Agricultural Economics (IEA-AR)
  • Pytrik Reidsma(Author)
    Wageningen University and Research Centre
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number102656
Number of pages10
JournalAgricultural Systems
Issue numberN/A
Early online date09 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 09 Aug 2019
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Agricultural systems in Europe face accumulating economic, ecological and societal challenges, raising concerns about their resilience to shocks and stresses. These resilience issues need to be addressed with a focus on the regional context in which farming systems operate because farms, farmers' organizations, service suppliers and supply chain actors are embedded in local environments and functions of agriculture. We define resilience of a farming system as its ability to ensure the provision of the system functions in the face of increasingly complex and accumulating economic, social, environmental and institutional shocks and stresses, through capacities of robustness, adaptability and transformability. We (i) develop a framework to assess the resilience of farming systems, and (ii) present a methodology to operationalize the framework with a view to Europe's diverse farming systems. The framework is designed to assess resilience to specific challenges (specified resilience) as well as a farming system's capacity to deal with the unknown, uncertainty and surprise (general resilience). The framework provides a heuristic to analyze system properties, challenges (shocks, long-term stresses), indicators to measure the performance of system functions, resilience capacities and resilience-enhancing attributes. Capacities and attributes refer to adaptive cycle processes of agricultural practices, farm demographics, governance and risk management. The novelty of the framework pertains to the focal scale of analysis, i.e. the farming system level, the consideration of accumulating challenges and various agricultural processes, and the consideration that farming systems provide multiple functions that can change over time. Furthermore, the distinction between three resilience capacities (robustness, adaptability, transformability) ensures that the framework goes beyond narrow definitions that limit resilience to robustness. The methodology deploys a mixed-methods approach: quantitative methods, such as statistics, econometrics and modelling, are used to identify underlying patterns, causal explanations and likely contributing factors; while qualitative methods, such as interviews, participatory approaches and stakeholder workshops, access experiential and contextual knowledge and provide more nuanced insights. More specifically, analysis along the framework explores multiple nested levels of farming systems (e.g. farm, farm household, supply chain, farming system) over a time horizon of 1–2 generations, thereby enabling reflection on potential temporal and scalar trade-offs across resilience attributes. The richness of the framework is illustrated for the arable farming system in Veenkoloniën, the Netherlands. The analysis reveals a relatively low capacity of this farming system to transform and farmers feeling distressed about transformation, while other members of their households have experienced many examples of transformation.


  • farming systems, resilience capacities, enabling environment, shocks, long-term stresses, private and public goods