In the past farmers have been key rural citizens as farming has played an important role in local rural economies. Today there is a reduction in the number of people working on the land and farms as a business no longer make such a large direct economic contribution. At the same time the importance of farmers for managing farmland for wildlife, landscape value and tourism has been increasing. Yet commercial pressures mean that many farmers are leaving the profession or becoming more specialised, and it is no longer clear to many of them how they will continue to play an important economic role in the future.
Although they are physically dispersed, individual farmers are part of a farming community - living, working and interacting with one another. Current trends run the risk of placing an increasing strain on their ability to work together as a ‘community of practice’ and experience a clear, shared, farming identity. At the same time new agricultural technologies are being developed that also impact on the relationships that farmers have with others. For example, genetically modified crops, which have the potential to drive a wedge between farmers who may see the future of agriculture differently, but they can also demand, or be opportunities for greater farmer co-operation. Drawing on the findings of our study on farmers understandings of new, future technologies and genetically modified crops, this paper considers the impact of new agricultural technologies on farmer communities of practice.