Rural restructuring is epitomised by fundamental change, impacting on all areas of rural life from social activities to rural practices. Within the sphere of agriculture, rural change is often explained through a transitional theoretical perspective outlining a shift from productivism to post-productivism to a multifunctional agricultural regime (Wilson, 2007). Fluctuating agricultural practices have resulted in a myriad of change in farming in recent decades, but one element of consistency has been the survival of the family farm. Identified by Woods (2014, p. 31) as an ‘icon of the Western Countryside’, the family farm embodies resilience, persistence and perseverance. Nonetheless, the occupation of farming is a complex phenomenon with a potential mixture of ideological/vocational adherence, emotional attachment, rational economic priorities, and political and legislative realities. The traditional structure of the family farm remains central, particularly in an EU context. This is challenged by global economic trends and trading arrangements that reflect the influence of increasingly neoliberal agricultural processes and practices. So far, fears of a shift towards the corporatization of agriculture to meet these challenges has been rejected on the basis that the family farm continues to operate as a dominant model of ownership. However, serious questions about the family farm structure and its capacity to continue to operate effectively and efficiently are being raised at national and international levels. These questions relate in no small part to dilemmas about farm succession; dilemmas that are far from being comprehensively addressed at national or EU policy levels.
This session aims to focus on the survival of the family farm, paying particular attention to issues of intergenerational family farm transfer, including issues of succession, inheritance and gender issues surrounding the transfer of the family farm. Of particular importance is a consideration given to whether current generational renewal policies give proper and due consideration to the senior generation’s attachment to their farm and occupation in later life, and how difficult it is for many to retire from farming. Empirical, theoretical and policy-focused papers are welcome. Papers relating to the challenges and opportunities facing new entrants and young farmers are also welcome.