Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. Farmers have been exposed to multiple stressors including climate change, and they have managed to adapt to those risks. The adaptation actions undertaken by farmers and their decision making are, however, only poorly understood. By studying adaptation practices undertaken by apple farmers in three regions: Nagano and Kazuno in Japan and Elgin in South Africa, we categorize the adaptation actions into two types: farmer initiated bottom-up adaptation and institution led top-down adaptation. We found that the driver which differentiates the type of adaptation likely adopted was strongly related to the farmers' characteristics, particularly their dependence on the institutions, e.g. the farmers' cooperative, in selling their products. The farmers who rely on the farmers' cooperative for their sales are likely to adopt the institution-led adaptation, whereas the farmers who have established their own sales channels tend to start innovative actions by bottom-up. We further argue that even though the two types have contrasting features, the combinations of the both types of adaptations could lead to more successful adaptation particularly in agriculture. This study also emphasizes that more farm-level studies for various crops and regions are warranted to provide substantial feedbacks to adaptation policy.