Strategies of Resilience: Cooperation in Irish Family Farming
Drawing from both historical ethnographic sociology and more recently collected narrative data, we trace changing resilience strategies employed by Irish family farms. We focus specifically on collective action within farm families and communities, a pathway to resilience that has traditionally depended on patriarchal relations and an accession of individual interests to the survival of the family farm. We find that new conditions for resilience have emerged, disrupting relationships on which historical forms of collective action depended. Threatened with the flight of women and youth towards off-farm opportunities, resilience strategies have come to accommodate better and respond to the needs of individuals in farm families. However, if the farm is to survive, family members remain collectively challenged with meeting its physical demands. One contemporary resilience strategy employs Joint Farming Ventures (JFVs), which involve formalised collaborative arrangements between husbands and wives, parents and offspring, non-immediate relatives, and farming neighbours. We find women and men at different stages in the lifecourse are employing JFVs to drive and resource renewed resilience strategies. Reconstituted relational arrangements within the farm family allow the farm to draw from an increased range of resources through an enhanced commitment of diverse farm family members. By prioritising the family farm, contemporary resilience strategies are consistent with historical ones but create greater capacity for family farm resilience by boosting reservoirs of social, cultural and economic capital available to the farm. This insight goes some way towards shedding light on the intricate puzzle that is the remarkable resilience of Irish family farms and those continuing to exist worldwide.
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