Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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"One Paddock at a Time": A Multispecies Ethnography of Farmers' Experiments with Regenerative Agriculture in New Zealand

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posted on 2022-07-09, 01:48 authored by Evans, Rachel

This thesis explores how and why farmers are transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand. Regenerative agriculture is an umbrella term that encompasses an array of practices which seek to bring more life to farm systems, with a central focus on soil health. I examine the more-than-human relationships that are involved in this transition and consider the practical, political, and moral implications of regenerative agriculture. I argue that farmers’ transitions to regenerative agriculture are best understood as a non-linear process of experimentation and that through engaging with regenerative agriculture, farmers are re-acquainted with the experimental nature of their farm systems. This thesis examines ethnographic data gathered through interviews and participant observation with medium-scale commercial farms in the South Island of New Zealand, across the Canterbury, Otago, and Southland regions. I analyse the historical processes through which paddocks were made in New Zealand and detail the political, economic and environmental factors which continue to shape the paddock today. Farmers’ experiments with regenerative agriculture are continually mediated by these dynamics and I complicate models which seek to understand why farmers engage with regenerative agriculture in behavioural terms alone. Throughout, I explore the more-than-human interactions that are involved in farmers’ experiments in order to demonstrate how experimentation, as a ‘machine for making the future’ (Rheinberger 1994), is always a multispecies affair. I suggest that following farmers’ experiments in regenerative agriculture gives insight into how farmers seek to enact more liveable worlds amidst the complex milieu of the export-orientated, productivist, New Zealand agricultural industry.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Cultural Anthropology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

100199 Environmentally sustainable animal production not elsewhere classified; 199999 Other environmental policy, climate change and natural hazards not elsewhere classified; 280123 Expanding knowledge in human society; 130303 Environmental ethics

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Elinoff, Eli; Trundle, Catherine