This paper reports on the social structures of an ongoing learning group in which 17 farmers and five agricultural scientists are collaboratively undertaking a three-year farmlet experiment that investigates the performance of ‘herb mix’ pastures. Network analyses have been undertaken of the history of prior contact between the group’s 22 members and of the 223 contacts made by the participating farmers to develop their herb pasture knowledge. The results show that networking by farmer members radically increases the ability of science to reach other farmers. These farmer networks have distributed structures characterised by dense, decentralised and equitable ties between the participants. The power to authorise agricultural knowledge is pluralised by numerous self-reinforcing relationships grounded in everyday farming practices. The paper concludes by discussing the relevance of such distributed learning for current attempts to replace linear extension with a more productive approach to agricultural knowledge.

BA, Wood, HT Blair, DI Grey, M Hartnett, PD Kemp, PR Kenyon, ST Morris, and AM Sewell

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 74, Napier, 173-178, 2014
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