Farmer knowledge as formal knowledge: A case study of farmer-led research in Ontario, Canada

Farmer: Farmer-researchers


Region: Ontario

Publish Date: August 23, 2023

Article Type: Manuscripts

Research Priorities: Community 


Farmer-led research (FLR) is a process of inquiry wherein farmers use scientific methods to address their own on-farm curiosities and challenges in ways that are compatible with the scale and management style of their operations. With its flexible, adaptable, participatory, grassroots-oriented nature, FLR has typically been employed by farmers interested in ecological farming techniques and technologies, and evidence shows that it contributes to the adoption and improvement of ecological management practices across a range of contexts. Engagement in FLR initiatives has also been linked to positive social outcomes, including community building, farmer empowerment, and enhanced capacity for leadership and collective action. In this paper, we present a case study of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario’s (EFAO) Farmer-Led Research Program (FLRP), which is currently one of relatively few FLR initiatives in North America. We draw on data from a participatory, mixed-methods research project. Our results highlight how the FLRP is enabling farmers to feel more knowledgeable, confident, motivated, and inspired to adopt and/or improve ecological practices on their farms, in part by supporting them in building robust social networks that align with their farming values and priorities.


  • Farmer-led Research, Ecological Agriculture, Farmer-to-Farmer Networks, Knowledge-Sharing, Social Learning, Evidence-Informed Practice, Ontario