Rising to the Food Security Challenge: An Investigation into Family Farm Succession in the South West of England
Chiswell, Hannah Marie
Date: 11 September 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
Driven by global population growth and anticipated increases in demand for food as well as a number of other goods and services, the issue of food security has recently (re-)emerged in both policy and academic contexts. Using a modified political economy perspective, this study recognises the role of the family farm as policy operatives ...
Driven by global population growth and anticipated increases in demand for food as well as a number of other goods and services, the issue of food security has recently (re-)emerged in both policy and academic contexts. Using a modified political economy perspective, this study recognises the role of the family farm as policy operatives in this context and considers the potential influence of intergenerational farm transfer on the delivery of food security objectives. It also explores how the food security agenda, described by some as the renaissance in agriculture, is influencing the farming community and in particular, the appeal of succeeding to the family farm. Broadly, it seeks to add to, and develop the body of knowledge relating to family farm succession, and explores the linkages between succession and the food security agenda. The study used 1941-1943 National Farm Survey data and maps as a tool to facilitate semi-structured interviews with farmers, and where applicable their potential successors, in Hatherleigh and surrounding parishes, Devon, UK. The study also highlights the absence of the potential successor from family farm research and subsequently resolves definitional issues surrounding the term by presenting a conceptual framework, including a definition of the potential successor. The findings indicate that family farming continues to be largely hereditary, and demonstrates how the occupancy of Hatherleigh and surrounding parishes has been shaped by traditions and expectations that socialised incumbent farmers into succeeding. Despite contemporary concern about the desirability of intergenerational farm transfer, participating farmers understood passing on the farm to a next generation as desirable. Many of whom framed their optimism in the context of the food security agenda and the anticipated opportunities for the industry. Drawing on in-depth interviews, this thesis questions the notion of the so called ‘succession crisis’, and identifies a number of positive adaptations and outcomes associated with successor identification which it discusses in the context of delivery of food security objectives. Two broad types of transfer of managerial control were identified and a typology is offered that suggests types of transfer are the product of potential successors’ ages and the subsequent nature of their upbringing. The thesis critically considers the types’ respective merits in the context of food security objectives and an original conceptualisation is offered as a contemporary way of understanding the types of transfer of managerial control in Hatherleigh and surrounding parishes. As well as influencing the transfer of managerial control, the study attributes significant differences in potential successors’ motivations according to the fundamental societal shift from a ‘society of duty’ to a ‘market place of opportunity’. Critically, the thesis revealed how, unlike their older counterparts, younger potential successors were motivated by the renaissance in agriculture, particularly elements such as the renewed public interest in, and respect for, farming as well as, opportunities farming for food security may offer. Overall, the thesis highlights the importance of considering the family farm and the influence of succession on the industry’s response to food security policy measures. It proposes that, at an aggregate level, ‘effective succession’, measured in terms of the identification of a successor and the timely and appropriate transfer of managerial control, are likely to be key factors in the delivery of food security objectives. It also recognises how succession and successor ‘creation’ are changing as society increasingly prioritises the individual and that the changing image of farming associated with the renaissance in agriculture is influencing younger potential successors. From these conclusions, suggestions are made for areas of further work, particularly with regard to understanding the implications of the different types of transfer of managerial control on long-term farm business performance, and some practical options for continuing to attract potential successors into the industry and facilitating effective intergenerational transfer are offered.
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