138 – Practice change by farmers: National symposium

There will be a national symposium in Melbourne on 14 November 2008 on the topic “Understanding Practice Change by Farmers”.

Back in PD#125 I mentioned that a group of us was contemplating running a national workshop to celebrate the success of our paper on adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders (Pannell et al., 2006), which had just become the most downloaded paper of the Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture. This idea now will become a reality, with a national symposium in Melbourne on 14 November.

Already the interest in the symposium has been remarkable. We were hoping to get 200 delegates, but with minimal publicity we had 200 registrations within five days of announcing the event. We’ve now changed the venue to accommodate an audience of up to 400, but even that looks likely to be booked out. So if you wish to register, don’t take your time about it or you may miss out.

The general plan for the day is to bring together a group of Australia’s leading researchers on the subject of rural practice change to:

(a) present an overview of what the existing research literature says about adoption of new practices by rural landholders,

(b) present new research results, cutting edge ideas and responses to current topical issues, and

(c) highlight implications of all this for organisations and individuals who engage with rural landholders.

The event will encompass rural landholders generally, not just farmers, which is important given the changes occurring in some regions.

The speakers will be:

Dr Neil Barr (Department of Primary Industries Victoria). Neil is a social psychologist by training with a longstanding research interest in the adoption of farm innovations and the demographic, psychological and social aspects of adoption.

Professor Allan Curtis (Charles Sturt University). Allan researches watershed organisations, the policy and institutional arrangements supporting catchment management, and the evaluation of NRM programs.

Dr Geoff Kaine (Department of Primary Industries Victoria). Geoff has expertise in adoption of new technologies and practices by primary producers and market based instruments in natural resource policy. Current projects include policy choices for climate change.

Dr Rick Llewellyn (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems). Rick’s research focuses on adoption of various farming practices, the role of farmer-led groups in the research and extension network, and a variety of farming systems issues.

Dr Graham Marshall (University of New England). Graham’s current work focuses on the economics of community-based environmental programs reliant on farmer’s voluntary adoption of conservation practices.

Professor David Pannell (University of Western Australia). David is a Professor in Agricultural and Resource Economics, ARC Federation Fellow, and Director of the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy. He has researched rural practice change from a number of perspectives.

Professor Frank Vanclay (University of Tasmania). Frank is a Professor of rural sociology and leader of the Rural Social Research Group in the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, with a long track record of research on rural practice change and related issues.

Roger Wilkinson (Department of Primary Industries Victoria). Roger has worked as a rural sociologist and extension researcher in Australia and New Zealand and is currently senior social researcher in the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

The event will be facilitated by Andrew Campbell (Triple Helix Consulting Managing Director).

For those who cannot make it to the event or miss out on a place, we will be using a number of strategies to capture the day and make it available to a broader audience:

(a) All talks will be recorded and made available as podcasts on the event web site, together with copies of PowerPoint presentations.

(b) Briefer video interviews with speakers will be recorded and placed on YouTube, with links from the event web site.

(c) Written papers for each talk will be published as a book.

See the event web site at for a flier, a program, and details of how to register.

David Pannell, The University of Western Australia

Further Reading

Pannell, D.J., Marshall, G.R., Barr, N., Curtis, A., Vanclay, F. and Wilkinson, R. (2006). Understanding and promoting adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46(11): 1407-1424.

If you or your organisation subscribes to the Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture you can access the paper at: (or non-subscribers can buy a copy on-line for A$25). Otherwise, email to ask for a copy.