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Experiential science; towards an integration of implicit and reflected practitioner-expert knowledge in the scientific development of organic farming

By T. Baars

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Abstract

For further development of organic agriculture, it will become increasingly essential to integrate experienced innovative practitioners in research projects. The characteristics of this process of co-learning have been transformed into a research approach, theoretically conceptualized as "experiential science" (Baars 2007, Baars and Baars 2007). The approach integrates social sciences, natural sciences, and human sciences. It is derived from action research and belongs to the wider field of transdiscliplinary research. In a dialogue-based culture of equality and mutual exchange the principal of a "bottom-up" experiential learning process can be stimulated and fully reflective. It provides an opportunity to develop organic agriculture as multiple best-practices based on transdisciplinary projects, cases studies, and case series. The aim of the article is to describe the methodological characteristics and the theoretical and practical potential of experiential science for research in and development of organic farming. Three characteristic projects are outlined to illustrate the main elements of the methodology: the retrospective reflection on intuitive and experiential knowledge held by farmers; the knowledge derived from on-farm experimentation; the exchange of knowledge and experiences between farming pioneers within a "masterclass" setting. The study concludes that experiential science offers an important philosophical reconciliation process whereby a synthesis of different approaches to research becomes possible in solving real-life problems: quantitative and qualitative, subjective and objective, reductionistic and holistic, practice and science. Recognizing that there are multiple elements contributing to the process of acquiring knowledge, experiential science draws on a broad field of scientific methods thereby integrating the hermeneutic approach of social sciences and the Humanities with the established methods of contemporary natural science.

Date 2011
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 24
Issue 6
Pages 601-628
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9281-3
Language English
Author Address Department of Biodynamic Agriculture, University of Kassel, Nordbahnhofstrasse 1A, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany. baars@uni-kassel.de
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Tags
  1. Animal husbandry
  2. Ecological agriculture
  3. Interdisciplinary work
  4. Knowledge
  5. Learning
  6. organic culture
  7. organic farming
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. Plants
  10. Research
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  1. peer-reviewed