Rural Sociology

We study the situation of people in the agricultural and food system in the context of social, economic, political and environmental change.

We explore the challenges faced by people in the agricultural and food system using various methods of empirical social research. In particular we examine social sustainability. We work on an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary basis and network with practitioners, businesspeople and researchers.

Services

We provide the following services to government agencies, associations, advisory institutions and businesses:

  • Social scientific research and analysis using qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods (interviews, surveys, expert workshops and participatory methods)
  • Qualitative and quantitative evaluations
  • Organisation, implementation and facilitation of workshops, courses and scientific conferences

Expertise

We specialise in research and the development of recommendations in the following areas:

  • Living conditions and quality of life in agriculture
  • Negotiation and decision-making processes within producer families with due consideration of gender and generational relationships
  • Adaptation in agriculture, e.g. in the context of climate change or digitalisation
  • The sharing of information and ideas between stakeholders, e.g. along the food value chain or in connection with innovation processes such as digitalisation

Projects

The handover or takeover of a farm is a complex process which is very demanding for all concerned. Together with industry partners, we are addressing this process in a research and extension project. The aim is to research the farm-transfer process and develop new approaches based on this research. These approaches should help both farming families and extension practitioners to tackle farm transfer in a timely and comprehensive manner.
Project management: Sandra Contzen

The average per-capita consumption of meat in Switzerland is 60 kg. This has an impact on nature and the environment and presents actors along the meat value chain with social and ecological challenges. New digital solutions such as apps and chatbots can offer innovative opportunities here by enabling existing processes to be made more transparent and environmentally sound. They are, however, not without risks. The TransChain research project addresses the opportunities and risks of transparency within the Swiss meat value chain in the context of digitalisation.
Project management: Evelyn Markoni and Christine Jurt

When spouses decide to go their separate ways, there are wide-ranging consequences for all concerned. In agriculture, it is not only the individuals who are affected but also the farm, and this is a significant factor in divorce negotiations. In this project, we are collecting comprehensive data on divorce in Swiss agriculture. On the basis of empirical findings and in cooperation with industry partners, we are producing resource material providing specialist information about the divorce process for agricultural families and married couples.
Project management: Sandra Contzen and Christine Burren

In recent years, suicides in Switzerland’s farming sector have been a recurrent theme in the media. On behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, researchers have now conducted a broad-based, systematic literature review in a range of disciplines. The purpose of this study was to assemble the scientific basis on the issue, while also identifying gaps in the research and in the data.

Team