Enabling learning in demonstration farms: a literature review

Julie Ingram, Hannah Chiswella, Jane Mills, Lies Debruyne, Hanne Cooreman, Alexandrous Koutsouris, Eleni Pappa, Fleur Marchand


Demonstration farms have a long tradition and have proved to be an effective means of supporting farmers in problem-solving at the farm level. The new demands of complex and uncertain agricultural systems call for a renewed understanding of the approaches used and the concepts that underpin them, in particular those relating to farmer learning in the demonstration. A multi-faceted demonstration ‘learning system’ creates different contexts or conditions that enable learning. Of these contexts and conditions, structural and functional characteristics provide a good framework for analysis. This review paper aims to identify the key functional characteristics that enable learning in demonstrations. The paper provides a narrative review which presents, and builds on, the state of the art with respect to the main topic – enabling learning in demonstration farms. It draws on a wide body of literature, firstly with respect to theoretical insights into different forms of learning (single and double loop) and social learning processes, and secondly with respect to the factors that enable learning at programme level (e.g. strategies and approaches) and at farm and event level (e.g. mediation techniques). In doing this, it provides the building blocks for analysing the functional characteristics relevant to enabling learning in demonstrations. It concludes by drawing out the links between the demonstration objective, the functional characteristics and different forms and processes of learning. This work is taken from work in the EU H2020 project AgriDemo-F2F project and complements two other papers in this Special issue which examine the structural enabling environment and the cognitive processes of farm level peer-peer learning. An increased understanding of how learning through demonstration can be enabled in an increasingly complex context will help to develop institutions and programmes that aim to foster innovation in sustainable agriculture.


Demonstration, farmer learning, structural characteristics, functional characteristics, AgriDemo-F2F project


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