Continuity and Change: The geo-demographic structure of Ireland’s population of farmers

David Meredith, Caroline Crowly


Drawing on the Census of Agriculture, a small number of researchers have developed a substantial body of literature describing and evaluating the changing structure of farms and farm enterprises in Ireland. This paper contributes to that body of work through the development and application of a geo-demographic typology. The research highlights the ageing of the population of farmers between 2000 and 2010 and describes the resulting spatial patterns. The application of the geo-demographic typology enables the association between farmer age and the outcomes to processes resulting in the geographic specialisation of farm enterprises to be identified and assessed. The paper then considers the potential implications of intergenerational transfer of land and farms to a new generation of land-holders. In this context, the land use intentions of this group of land-holders will shape the future development of the sector, not only in terms of food production and the attainment of targets set out in agri-food development strategies, but also in terms of meeting societal demands for the production of renewable energy and mitigation of climate change through afforestation. The research highlights the on-going attachment to the land amongst most respondents even in those cases where the farm enterprise is not economically viable, and associated with this, the need for off-farm sources of income.

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