• Cease agricultural activity forever? Underestimating the importance of symbolic capital

      Conway, Shane Francis; McDonagh, John; Farrell, Maura; Kinsella, Anne; National University of Ireland, Galway; Geographical Society of Ireland (Elsevier, 11/02/2016)
      Similar to what is occurring on a global scale, Irish agriculture is populated by an older generation of farmers. Consequently, intergenerational family farm transfer is increasingly viewed as crucial to the survival, continuity and future sustainability of the family farm and agricultural sector. A review of existing research highlights how financial incentives that encourage succession and retirement from farming have stimulated little change in the behavioural intentions and attitudes amongst elderly farmers. Drawing on two previously disparate literature (transferring the family firm and transferring the family farm) and applying Pierre Bourdieu's concept of symbolic capital as a theoretical framework, this paper sets aside financial enticements and presents an insightful, nuanced analysis of the human factors that influence the process of transferring the family farm from the perspective of the senior generation. This research employs a multi-method triangulation design, consisting of self-administered questionnaires in conjunction with complimentary Problem-Centred Interviews, to acquire data on the complex psychodynamic and sociodynamic emotions involved in the process. The prominent themes to emerge from the empirical data are farmer's concerns regarding potential loss of identity, status and control upon transferring management and ownership of the family farm and retiring. Many older farmers appear to prioritise the building and maintenance of their personal accumulation of symbolic capital rather than ceasing agricultural activity. The paper concludes by suggesting that future policies and programmes encouraging family farm transfer must take into account the pervasiveness of symbolic capital and work within this structure to develop effective strategies that addresses the emotional well-being of elderly farmers.
    • Human dynamics and the intergenerational farm transfer process in later life: A roadmap for future generational renewal in agriculture policy

      Conway, Shane Francis; McDonagh, John; Farrell, Maura; Kinsella, Anne; National University of Ireland, Galway; Geographical Society of Ireland (International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management, 2019)
      The senior generation’s reluctance and indeed resistance to alter the status quo of the existing management and ownership structure of their family farm is undoubtedly strong within the farming community. This phenomenon has resulted in extraordinary socio-economic challenges for young people aspiring to embark on a career in farming. The reasons why older farmers fail to plan effectively and expeditiously for the future are expansive, and range from the potential loss of identity, status and power that may occur as a result of engaging in the process, to the intrinsic multi-level relationship farmers have with their farms. These so-called ‘soft issues’ i.e. the emotional and social dimensions involved, are the issues that distort and dominate the older generation’s decisions on the future trajectory of the farm. These really are the ‘hard issues’. This paper draws on three interrelated journal articles exploring the complex human dynamics influencing the decision-making processes surrounding farm succession and retirement to put forth a series of recommendations that sensitively deal with problematic issues surrounding generational renewal in agriculture, whilst also ensuring farmers’ emotional wellbeing in later life.
    • Mobilising Land Mobility in the European Union: An Under-Researched Phenomenon

      Conway, Shane Francis; Farrell, Maura; McDonagh, John; Kinsella, Anne (International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management, 2020)
      Interest in land mobility and its impact on the structural development and economic growth of the agricultural sector has grown considerably amid concerns about the ageing European farming population. There have been calls throughout Europe for structural and institutional deterrents obstructing the passage of farmland from the older to younger generation of farmers to overcome this phenomenon and help facilitate generational renewal in agriculture. Nonetheless, gaining access to land is widely reported to be the single largest barrier facing young people attempting to enter farming. Whilst land mobility is given homogenous importance throughout Europe, this view point paper highlights that policies and regulations relating to land differ considerably across EU Member States. There is also a surprising scarcity of literature and academic discussion on access to land in a European context, despite its crucial role in the survival, continuity and future prosperity of the farming industry and the broader sustainability of rural communities. By focussing on the key policy and structural issues hampering access to agricultural land throughout Europe, and using the Republic of Ireland’s Land Mobility Service as a good practice example of how to help facilitate the process, this paper provides a rationale for why a major European study is required to investigate the factors which influence land mobility in each of the 27 EU Member States in order to inform future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans, particularly in relation to generational renewal objectives.
    • Till death do us part: Exploring the Irish farmer-farm relationship in later life through the lens of ‘Insideness’

      Conway, Shane Francis; McDonagh, John; Farrell, Maura; Kinsella, Anne; National University of Ireland, Galway; Geographical Society of Ireland (International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management, 2018)
      The senior generation’s unwillingness to relinquish managerial duties and retire is a globally recognized characteristic of intergenerational family farm transfer. This is despite the array of financial incentives put in place to stimulate and entice the process. Applying Rowles’ concept of ‘insideness’ as a theoretical framework, this paper brings into focus the suitability and appropriateness of previous and existing farm transfer policy strategies, by presenting an insightful, nuanced analysis of the deeply embedded attachment older farmers have with their farms, and how such a bond can stifle the necessary hand over of the farm business to the next generation. This research employs a multi-method triangulation design, consisting of a self-administered questionnaire and an Irish adaptation of the International FARMTRANSFERS Survey in conjunction with complimentary Problem-Centred Interviews, to generate a comprehensive insight into the intricate, multi-level farmer-farm relationship in later life. The overriding themes to emerge from the content analysis of the empirical research are farmer’s inherit desire to stay rooted in place in old age and also to maintain legitimate connectedness within the farming community by remaining active and productive on the farm. Additionally, there is a strong sense of nostalgia attributed to the farm, as it is found to represent a mosaic of the farmer’s achievements as well as being a landscape of memories. The paper concludes by suggesting that a greater focus on the farmer-farm relationship has the potential to finally unite farm transfer policy efforts with the mind-set of its targeted audience, after decades of disconnect.