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Abstract

Research on voluntary agri-environmental schemes (AES) typically reveals limited engagement on the part of most participants, with the majority enticed into participation by a combination of attractive payment rates and compatibility with the existing farming system. Commentators have argued that changing farmer attitudes towards environmental management should be an outcome of AES. One possible way of doing this is through the provision of educational and advisory programmes designed to help farmers understand why certain actions are required and how to undertake appropriate conservation management. Based on interviews with a sample of 24 farmers in the East and South West of England this paper explores farmer understanding and concerns regarding the management requirements of two options implemented under the Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) scheme. It considers the short and medium term impacts of participating in bespoke group training events and discusses the potential of training to improve the effective implementation of agri-environmental management at the farm level. Analysis of the impact of training reveals that participation in bespoke group training events can fill knowledge gaps, equip farmers with a range of management skills, improve confidence and engender a more professionalised approach to agri-environmental management.

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