1 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Agroecology - Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University3 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Agroecology - Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
The entrepreneur in the new rural landscapes
The rural landscapes of the western world have been radically changing in the past decades. Agricultural production no longer defines rural landscapes and rural landscapes are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. Multiple actors are driving the changes in the rural: farmers engaging in new activities, local, national and supranational policy makers, returnees and in-migrants engage in new activities in the face of general – albeit unevenly distributed decline in population, capital and services. In the many research streams trying to come to grips with the changes in the rural landscape the “entrepreneur” is a recurring figure; typically seen as a change agent of new economic activities, often cast in the role of astute businessman seeking short term profit. While this resonates to some extent with the tradition of the entrepreneurship field, this view is problematic in several respects. Firstly, it is empirically incomplete, in so far as entrepreneurs when studied at the micro-level appear to be creators rather than appropriators or exploiters of value. Secondly, it loses sight of the multiple types of value created by entrepreneurs. And thirdly, it fails to create a synergy by integrating insight from the entrepreneurship research on the processes of value creation, with the deep understanding of context and place offered by research on regional development and rural sociology. In this paper we argue that entrepreneurs play a multi-facetted role in the on-going change of the rural landscapes. We explore the entrepreneurial roles through a multiple case study of food-entrepreneurs in rural Denmark. The study uses interviews and secondary data to focus on the way in which entrepreneurs leverage localized resources to create multiple types of value. Preliminary analyses suggest that rural entrepreneurs can be seen as “place builders”. The concept of place building, as inductively generated, entails several elements including: value creation, creating local linkages, creating non-local linkages, commodification and re-creation of a sense of place. The study shows promise of enhancing our knowledge of rural change as well as entrepreneurship. It adds to our knowledge of how localized entrepreneurs create change in rural landscapes, through recombination of localized resources. Yet, it also adds sorely need knowledge of how entrepreneurial activities are enabled and constrained by their immediate spatial environment.