Integrated crop–livestock systems (ICLS) are supposed to achieve eco-efficiency; however, its management is more complex than that of specialized systems, thereby posing a challenge for researchers, farmers, and advisors to develop coordinated actions. Besides, there is a lack of methodological approaches to support the transitions to ICLS that are important to help toward effectively crop-livestock recoupling.
The Farm Coaching (FC) workshop was developed based on a blend of ICLS concepts (i.e., management of the soil-plant-animal relationships, financial resources) and personal coaching (i.e., assertive communication and time budgets). Accordingly, the objectives of this study include: (i) to analyze and discuss the potential benefits and constrains of the FC workshop; (ii) to evaluate farmers mindset change after FC; and (iii) to identify the effective actions implemented by farmers supported with specialized ICLS advising.
The FC initiative was led by a private advisory company together with ICLS researchers. During each workshop, four steps are proposed: 1) deconstructing the current modus operandi, 2) going through concepts and tools to understand ICLS, 3) gaining experience through a serious game (SIPA game), and 4) co-designing a new lifestyle and production system. In addition to the workshop, the advisory company led the work on-farm that was composed of a pre-set framework, including diagnosis, co-design, and implementation. To better understand the impacts of FC, participant observation and individual interviews were conducted with 12 farmers.
Four FC workshops were held between 2017 and 2019 (90 participants in total). The FC initiative successfully supported the participants' mind-set changing from specialized toward ICLS. The 12 farmers interviewed also experienced customized ICLS advice to help set up the concepts of sustainable ICLS, including whole farm design, and transition into practice. The results highlight the individual trajectories in implementing ICLS projects. Initial strategies reported for transitions included: implementing pilot projects, evaluating technical and financial indicators, organizing personal working routines, and improving teamwork skills to deal with the duties of the new concept.
This study describes an original technical–personal blending approach that inspires the revision of current trends (i.e., specialized agricultural systems) and motivates farmers to act differently. The insights in this article may support ICLS agricultural initiatives in facilitating more effective mind-set changing and co-design processes.