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Neoliberalism, the "good farmer" and well-being: The effect of neoliberal policy reforms on the culture of family farming

Working Group 11: Neoliberalism,  the "good farmer" and well-being: The effect of neoliberal policy reforms on the culture of family farming

Rob Burton [1], Paul Stock [2], Jérémie Forney [3], Christine Jurt [4], Ruth Rossier [4], Theresia Oedl-Wieser [5]

1: Bygdeforskning, Norway, 2:University of Kansas, USA, 3:School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Switzerland, 4: Agroscope, Switzerland, 5:Federal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous Areas, Austria

Agriculture in Europe has been supported for decades by subsidy regimes that have enabled small farmers to largely avoid the growing pressures of ‘market forces’. Consequently, for family farming at least, much of the motivation for farming is based around intrinsic values such as the quality of life or generating social or cultural capital – rather than economic reward. In the many areas of Europe where farming is barely (or not at all) commercially viable, lifestyle or socio-cultural factors are almost the sole motivator for continuing in agriculture. However, the introduction of neoliberal policies promoting market forces could change all this by forcing agriculture in these regions on to a purely commercial footing. Long established concepts of “good farming” that have persisted over the last decades could diminish or change, while the quality of life and well-being that are key motivators for many in small-scale agriculture could equally decline as profitability becomes the dominant driver.

In this working group we aim to explore this issue. We focus specifically on (a) changes to the concept of the “good farmer” and the farmer identity, (b) changes to “quality of life” and (c) changes to “well-being” on family farms. What will happen in a neoliberal world and how will the structure and production of agriculture be affected? We are interested in papers on a range of topics based around these themes. For example, with changing roles in agriculture, does a culturally defined "good farmer" identity (an idealised farmer who embodies the practices that constitute wise and skilled farming) have any relevance for tomorrow's market driven agriculture – or even for today’s agriculture? How is the “good farmer” identity changing and how might it change in the future? In terms of “well-being” and “quality of life”, what do farmers  perceive as critical for these concepts and, importantly, how are they likely to be affected by neoliberal policy reforms? How will change effect the desirability of family farming (e.g. gender issues), will it influence the way family farms are managed (e.g. environmental management)  and will changes to farming cultures contribute to land use change such as abandonment or intensification?

We invite all researchers interested in these and similar issues to participate in our working group.