Organic farming in the past and today: sociometabolic perspective on a Central European case study

Eva Fraňková, Claudio Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. This paper contributes to the vivid academic debate on potentially more sustainable models of food production, focusing especially on energy issues. Applying social metabolism and energy flow analysis, it compares the functioning of a current small-scale organic family farm in the village of Holubí Zhoř, Czech Republic, with the historical performance of the village agroecosystem in c.1840. Historical data from the Franciscan stable cadastre and current data from direct field research are employed to quantify main productive assets (land, livestock, machinery and labour) and related energy flows into energy balance indicators. Their comparison shows that the present farm lies halfway between modern mechanized and traditional organic agriculture and thus constitutes an indicative case of the limits and potentialities of present-day more sustainable farm systems. Methodologically, the study is innovative by applying the social metabolism approach on the local (village and farm) level in the context of the global North, and by advancing the use of Energy Return On Investment (EROI) indicators for agroecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-963
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • EROI (Energy Return On Investment) in agriculture
  • Franciscan stable cadastre
  • Local food systems
  • Organic farming
  • Social metabolism
  • Sustainable farm systems


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