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Abstract

Van der Ploeg's ‘styles of farming’ approach attempts to explain the social nature of diversity in agriculture. For over 10 years we have attempted to apply this concept to a range of farming situations in Australia. This article reviews the issues posed by Vanclay et al. in 1998 and provides insight into what have been the developments in the concept of farming styles. We utilise the results of three studies in Australia: a study of farming styles in broadacre cropping and grazing farmers in the Riverina region of New South Wales; a study of grape growers in the Sunraysia district of Victoria and a separate study of grape growers across south-eastern Australia. While this research was intended to validate the existence of styles and to provide evidence of the usefulness of the concept and its application in rural industries, we were unable to replicate or validate van der Ploeg's original conceptualisation and methodology. We conclude that farming styles are more of an intellectual construction than a social construction. Nevertheless, we believe that the concept of farming styles is a useful heuristic and a new framework for understanding farming styles is presented.