On the first of February the Rural Sociology Group, in collaboration with the Education and Competence Studies Group, will start with a large research programme entitled ‘Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture’. This project is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and supported by the Task Force Multifunctional Agriculture. The programme aims to deepen our understanding of the critical factors that exert an influence on the dynamics of multifunctional agriculture. Factors that could play a role are for instance the knowledge and competences of farmers, support (or the lack of it) by farmers’ unions and/or other interest groups, constraining and enabling policies, the characteristics of the region, the (un)willingness of banks to grant credits for investments in new non-agricultural activities, history of the farm and composition of the farm household. In order to better understand the impact of the socio-economic and political environment we undertake a comparative analysis of farms that started to diversify some 10 – 15 years ago (when agricultural research, extension, policies and representation of interests strongly focused on the conventional model of productivism and agricultural modernization) and farms that started to diversify recently (when the socio-economic and political context had become more supportive in favour of multifunctional agriculture). Another issue we will examine in this project relates more to the robustness of multifunctional agriculture. That is, to what extent are agriculture and other activities as education, care, tourism and landscape preservation mutually dependent. And what will happen if the next generation takes over: will they continue with a diversified rural enterprise or continue with a specialised care or tourism enterprise located in a rural setting? And, another question related to robustness, what will happen if world market prices for the main food products increase: will the non-agricultural activities be stopped or will farm families continue to earn an income through a variety of economic activities. The project will run for 2 years and we will use this weblog as one of the means to regularly give an update about the project (given that the project focuses on the Netherlands weblogs will be partly in Dutch). Yet, it would also be very interesting, relevant and highly appreciated to get input and comments from researchers, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders which we can include as topics for interview questionnaires and/or workshops. So if there is any issue you want to address or question you want to raise regarding this topic, don’t hesitate to comment on this weblog entry!