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“The good guys are doing it anyway”: the accommodation of environmental concern among English and Welsh farmers

Wheeler, Rebecca; Lobley, Matt; Winter, Michael; Morris, Carol


Rebecca Wheeler

Matt Lobley

Michael Winter


Farmers today are increasingly facing pressure from policy and market forces to improve their environmental performance. Yet – despite widespread recognition of the negative externalities of agriculture on a national and global scale – many farmers would argue that, as “custodians of the countryside” they have always respected and cared for the local environment, and play a central role in creating and maintaining the countryside as we know it today. In this paper, we use evidence emerging from research with farmers across England and Wales to explore farmer accounts of environmental concern and action in the context of both traditional farming values and contemporary imperatives. We draw particularly on scholarly work around constructs of “good farming” to consider the extent to which environmental concern has been accommodated within a wide range of farming contexts across England and Wales. Our findings highlight an intrinsic sense of care towards the environment among farmers and reveal how environmental management has in many ways become an integral part of farming discourse; recognised as synergistic with personal and business goals concerning (i) personal respect for the environment and conservation; (ii) countryside custodianship; (iii) farm legacy and succession; (iv) “good” agricultural practice and compliance with regulation; and/or (v) financial profitability. We discuss some of the issues arising from our findings and offer our thoughts on implications for efforts to encourage farmers to carry out environmentally beneficial activities. Whilst expressions of environmental concern do not necessarily equate to effective action on the ground, recognising that many farmers believe environmental management to be part of good farming practice provides a more positive foundation for engaging with them on this topic than assuming they need to be cajoled into action.


Wheeler, R., Lobley, M., Winter, M., & Morris, C. (2018). “The good guys are doing it anyway”: the accommodation of environmental concern among English and Welsh farmers. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 1(4), 664-687.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 30, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 10, 2018
Publication Date Dec 10, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 11, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 12, 2018
Journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Print ISSN 2514-8494
Electronic ISSN 2514-8494
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 4
Pages 664-687
Public URL
Publisher URL


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