European agri-environment programmes are based on the common principle that farmers deliver environmental services for which society pays. Due to the voluntary nature of agri-environment measures (AEM), the issue of farmers' motives or reasons for participation has been an important topic of investigation in past years. The present paper examines farmers' rationale for participation in AEM against the backdrop of continued debate over whether to develop relatively simple measures that can be readily applied by many farmers or give greater priority to measures that are more targeted - i.e. to the specific management requirement of particular habitats or species - but are often more complex. The paper draws on empirical material from a case study in the Dyle valley, Belgium, including in-depth interviews, expert consultations and a mail survey. It was sought not only to identify and quantify the importance of separate reasons for participation, but also to reveal how these reasons and other elements of relevance were logically interrelated in the explanation that farmers themselves give for their participation. As a result, six modes or styles of participation were identified: opportunistic, calculative, compensatory, optimising, catalysing and engaged. The analyses suggest that there were notable differences in that both separate reasons for and modes of participation do vary with the complexity of the measures' requirements. Overall, the study demonstrates that participation in AEM is not simply a matter of weighing the money against the effort for adoption. Whereas money is an important driver for participation (in particular, for those adopting complex AEM) it plays widely differing roles depending on the level of farmers' reasoning (farm enterprise, single practice or landscape feature) and the importance they give to other considerations (environmental effect, production potential of land, goodness of fit, etc.). Practical implications are drawn for both policy makers and programme managers who develop and make available tailor-made support.