How Aotearoa can learn from Norway and the Netherlands when it comes to agriculture

How Aotearoa can learn from Norway and the Netherlands when it comes to agriculture

Professor Hugh Campbell, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Otago, has just returned from a nine-week trip to Europe, predominantly in Norway, where he has a position at a local University as well as visiting the University of Wageningen, a Dutch institute with a strong focus on agriculture.

He told REX host Dominic George about Norway's unique agricultural practices and the citizens' profound appreciation for their farmers. 

It was a lesson in the value of stewardship and the power of maintaining an intimate bond with the land, a lesson New Zealand could certainly find value in.

"In Norway, you cannot sell your land to make a large profit, and that makes a dramatic difference to farming," he said.

"People do not go into farming to make money in Norway. They all do it because of family, because of lifestyle, because of a particular bond to a piece of land."

This aspect of Norwegian farming where the farmers are seen as stewards and guardians of the landscape has earned them an astonishing level of social consent. 

"The level of social consent for farming in Norway is just astonishingly high... they see farming as an integral part of a beautiful productive landscape in Norway."

As we in New Zealand grapple with our own agricultural challenges, this concept of farmers as the stewards of a beautiful landscape seems worth exploring.

In a world increasingly focused on sustainable practices, perhaps it's time to look to models like Norway's where the relationship between the land and its keepers is not only respected but celebrated.

However, it wasn't all praise for the Norwegian model. Professor Campbell also highlighted the challenges they face in funding rural infrastructure. 

"In New Zealand politics there's a limit to which urban voters are going to think it's OK to have their money to be spent filling potholes and roads in Southland," he cautioned.

Despite the differences between our farming systems and those of Norway and the Netherlands, there's no denying that there are lessons to be learned and strategies to be considered. 

"There's no way in which we want to have 70% of our farming provided by the taxpayer, but it's that sense in which this is why Norwegians love their farms and their farmers is that they just see them as this integral part of a beautiful productive landscape in Norway." 

The balance between production, profitability, and preservation is a delicate one, but perhaps it's one we can strike with a little help from our friends in Norway and the Netherlands.

Listen to the full chat between Professor Hugh Campbell and Dominic George above.

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