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Abstract

The senior generation’s reluctance and indeed resistance to alter the status quo of the existing management and ownership structure of their family farm is undoubtedly strong within the farming community. This phenomenon has resulted in extraordinary socio-economic challenges for young people aspiring to embark on a career in farming. The reasons why older farmers fail to plan effectively and expeditiously for the future are expansive, and range from the potential loss of identity, status and power that may occur as a result of engaging in the process, to the intrinsic multi-level relationship farmers have with their farms. These so-called ‘soft issues’ i.e. the emotional and social dimensions involved, are the issues that distort and dominate the older generation’s decisions on the future trajectory of the farm. These really are the ‘hard issues’. This paper draws on three interrelated journal articles exploring the complex human dynamics influencing the decision-making processes surrounding farm succession and retirement to put forth a series of recommendations that sensitively deal with problematic issues surrounding generational renewal in agriculture, whilst also ensuring farmers’ emotional wellbeing in later life. Conway, S.F., McDonagh, J., Farrell, M. & Kinsella, A. (2019) Human dynamics and the intergenerational farm transfer process in later life: A roadmap for future generational renewal in agriculture policy, International Journal of Agricultural Management, 8(1), 22-30.
REFEREED ARTICLE
DOI: 10.5836/ijam/2019-08-22
Human dynamics and the
intergenerational farm transfer process
in later life: A roadmap for future
generational renewal in agriculture policy
SHANE FRANCIS CONWAY
1,*
, JOHN McDONAGH
1
, MAURA FARRELL
1
and ANNE KINSELLA
2
ABSTRACT
The senior generation’s reluctance and indeed resistance to alter the status quo of the existing
management and ownership structure of their family farm is undoubtedly strong within the farming
community. This phenomenon has resulted in extraordinary socio-economic challenges for young
people aspiring to embark on a career in farming. The reasons why older farmers fail to plan effectively
and expeditiously for the future are expansive, and range from the potential loss of identity, status and
powerthatmayoccurasaresultofengagingintheprocess, to the intrinsic multi-level relationship
farmers have with their farms. These so-called ‘soft issues’ i.e. the emotional and social dimensions
involved, are the issues that distort and dominate the older generation’s decisions on the future
trajectoryofthefarm.Thesereallyarethe‘hardissues’. This paper draws on three interrelated journal
articles exploring the complex human dynamics influencing the decision-making processes surrounding
farm succession and retirement to put forth a series of recommendations that sensitively deal with
problematic issues surrounding generational renewal in agriculture, whilst also ensuring farmers’
emotional wellbeing in later life.
KEYWORDS: generational renewal; family farming; succession; retirement; land mobility
1. Introduction
Globally the policy mantra about the survival, continuity
and future prosperity of the agricultural sector, tradi-
tional family farm model and broader sustainability of
rural society seems ultimately to depend on an age-
diverse farming population (Ingram and Kirwan, 2011;
Lobley and Baker, 2012; Nuthall and Old, 2017). Indeed
in Europe, an aging farming population and steady
decline in the number of young farm families is reported
as being a key factor in the demoralization of rural com-
munities in which the farm is located (Vare et al., 2005;
Zagata and Sutherland, 2015). Consequently, it is
increasingly clear that a major challenge presents itself
in the area of intergenerational family farm transfer, so
much so that European Commissioner for Agriculture
and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, maintains that a
priority for future CAP reforms must focus on genera-
tional renewal (European Commission, 2017).
Financial incentives to stimulate and entice interge-
nerational family farm transfer are undoubtedly impor-
tant, but as argued in this paper, which draws from
evidence gathered in the Republic of Ireland, there are
more facets to the farm succession and retirement
decision-making process that for the most part have
been neglected. Indeed, previous research carried out by
the lead author of this paper published in Conway et al.
(2016; 2017; 2018), have opened up considerable debate
in this area by delving into the mind-set and mannerism
of farmers in later life to help identify the dynamic mass
of emotional values attached to the farm and farming
occupation beyond the economic(Pile, 1990, p. 147). It
is from the lead authors empirical research ndings
published in Conway et al. (ibid) that this paper puts
forward a series of recommendations that are necessary
to address the future trajectory of the complex area that
is intergenerational family farm transfer.
The three interrelated studies published in Conway
et al. (2016; 2017; 2018) bring to surface the various
human dynamics inuencing and hindering the older
generations decision-making processes surrounding farm
succession and retirement from a different theoretical
base, whilst maintaining the same foci. Conway et al.
(2016) theoretically pioneered the use of Pierre Bourdieus
1
Discipline of Geography, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.
2
Teagasc Agricultural Economics and Farms Surveys Department, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland.
*Corresponding author: Email: shane.conway@nuigalway.ie
Original submitted December 2018; accepted February 2019.
ISSN 2047-3710 International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1
22 &2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management
notion of symbolic capital (i.e. resources available to an
individual on the basis of esteem, recognition, status, or
respect in a particular social setting) to comprehend the
psychodynamic and sociodynamic factors inuencing the
unwillingness and reluctance amongst older farmers
towards relinquishing management and ownership of the
family farm and retirement. Conway et al. (2017) explored
the micro-politics and hierarchical power dynamics at
play within family farm households through the analytical
lens of Pierre Bourdieus concept of symbolic power, and
the exercise of symbolic violence. While nally, Conway
et al. (2018) applied Graham Rowlesconcept of inside-
ness as a theoretical framework to present an insightful,
nuanced analysis of the deeply embedded attachment
older farmers have with their farms. These studies obtained
an in-depth, holistic understanding of the various facets
governing the attitudes and behaviour patterns of older
farmers towards the intergenerational family farm trans-
fer process by employing a multi-method triangulation
design, consisting of self-administered questionnaires
(n=324) carried out with farmers in attendance at a
series of Transferring the Family Farmclinics hosted
by Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development
Authority in Ireland as well as an Irish adaptation of
the International FARMTRANSFERS Survey (n=309),
in conjunction with complementary Problem-Centred
Interviews (n=19).
Empirical ndings from these studies demonstrated
how the senior generations reluctance and indeed resis-
tance to alter the status quo of the existing management
and ownership structure of the family farm is undoubt-
edly strong within the farming community. The reasons
why older farmers fail to plan effectively and expedi-
tiously for the future are expansive, and range from the
potential loss of identity, status and power that may
occur as a result of engaging in the process, to the intrin-
sic multi-level relationship farmers have with their farms.
The common denominator identied was that interge-
nerational family farm transfer is very much about emo-
tion. These so-called soft issuesi.e. the human dynamics
involved, are the issues that distort and dominate the
older generations decisions on the future trajectory of
the farm. In fact these issues have resulted in intractable
challenges for succession and retirement policy over the
past fty years, consequently making them very much
the hard issues. Future interventions and research
geared specically towards the needs and wants of the
senior generation of the farming community are there-
fore greatly warranted in order to help successfully
mobilise various collaborative farming policy efforts
aimed at facilitating land mobility from one generation
to the next.
2. Where does this lead us?
In an era of unprecedented transition in global agricul-
ture, particularly in the context of an ageing farming
population, calls for and justies, the development of
various incentives to stimulate and entice family farm
transfer. Creating an environment whereby enthusiastic
young farmers can gain access to productive assets and
subsequently improve the competitiveness of the agri-
cultural sector is imperative. While accountants, solici-
tors and nancial advisors all have essential roles to play
in this process, the complex array of human dynamics
inuencing and hindering the older generations decision-
making process (Conway et al. 2016; 2017; 2018), sug-
gest that policy makers and practitioners should avoid
the often-implicit assumption that nancial incentives
and the presence of an enthusiastic potential successor
are all that is required for a successful intergenerational
transfer transition. Such ingredients are essential no
doubt but equally crucial is the way in which such pro-
fessionals are well-informed and consciously aware that
the extent of effective intergenerational transfer planning
lies heavily upon the senior generations acceptance and
willingness to engage in the process. Effectively an
understanding that the senior farmer must be a willing
participant in altering the status quo of the farms
existing hierarchical structure, as they have the respect
and authority to do so by virtue of their lifelong accumu-
lation of symbolic capital.
Without the incumbents wholehearted commitment,
the likelihood of a successful management transition
from the older generation to the successor in waiting is
almost impossible. Fundamental action and change in
existing and future intergenerational family farm transfer
policy and schemes is required if the senior generation is
to maintain and sustain normal day to day activity
and behaviour on their farms in later life, whilst also
releasing the reinsto allow for the necessary delegation
of managerial responsibilities and ownership of the
family farm to their successors. If this fails to materialise,
there will continue to be extraordinary socio-economic
challenges for younger people aspiring to pursue farming
as a career.
3. Positionality: Reflecting on the research
process
Before detailing recommendations that sensitively deal
with problematic issues surrounding generational
renewal, whilst also ensuring farmersemotional well-
being and quality of life in later life, it is rst necessary to
reect on how the research process has sign-postedthese
recommendations. The research process itself involved
a multi-method triangulation design, consisting of self-
administered questionnaires (n=324) and an Irish adapta-
tion of the International FARMTRANSFERS Survey
(n=309) in conjunction with complementary Problem-
Centred Interviews (n=19). Approaching the research
phenomenon from three different, yet co-equal and inter-
dependent methodological vantage points, counteracted
the limitations and biases that stem from using a single
method, thus increasing the reliability, validity and rigor
of ndings. Participation in a 20-hour Farm Succession
Facilitation Certication Training programme offered by
the International Farm Transition Network (IFTN) at the
University of Wisconsin, Madison, U.S.A., in September
2015 during the research process further enhanced the
lead authors understanding, and ability to address the
complexity of issues surrounding succession planning by
successfully equipping them with a comprehensive set of
facilitation skills to work with farm families during the
process. As this research topic on the issue of family farm
transfer is not just a national or even European challenge,
but a global one, this was invaluable in obtaining an
international perspective on the issue while also enabling
the transfer of such knowledge into potential practical
International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1 ISSN 2047-3710
&2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management 23
Shane Francis Conway et al. Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life
applications and solutions in policy and consultancy
domains.
In all, the methodological approach of the study was
rigorous, accurate, professional and condential. Research
participants were hugely interested in being involved in
the study, and as a result gave freely of their time in pro-
viding an honest account of their opinions and experi-
ences of farm succession and retirement. It was this
process of self-reection and introspection on the farm-
ers part, which ultimately allowed the research to evolve
in such a meaningful and practical way. By entering the
research participantslife world, the lead author was
presented with many invaluable opportunities to con-
ceptualise the intergenerational family farm transfer
issue particularly as it relates to exploring the mindset
and mannerisms of farmers in later life. These experi-
ences imbued a sense of the importance in bridging the
gap between theory and practice and in giving a voice to
older farmers whose stories can be marginalised by the
larger assemblages of state, ultimately beneting the
research process.
The recommendations presented hereafter, which take
into account the human dynamics affecting the process,
are very appropriately timed, because for too long the
policy debate has been conducted with little reference
to farmers or to their view of the world(Winter, 1997,
p. 377). Indeed these recommendations demand care-
ful consideration if the existing ambivalence towards
intergenerational farm transfer is to be sensitively and
successfully addressed. These recommendations are predo-
minately directed at policy makers and key stakeholders
who have the means and ability to deliver future inter-
ventions, and programmes, that deal with problematic
issues surrounding this complex area.
4. Recommendations
4.1 Recommendation 1: Farmer-sensitive
policy design and implementation
Regarding the suitability of farm transfer policy strate-
gies put in place in the Republic of Ireland over the past
four decades, particularly several short-lived Early Retire-
ment Schemes (ERS), designed to encourage older farmers
generating low returns to retire, Conway et al. (2016) found
thattheyhadlittleornoregardforolderfarmers emotions
and were excessively preoccupied with nancial incentives
to encourage the process. Consequently, a derailment of the
process in many cases has been the ultimate outcome. For
example, the eligibility requirements for farmers entering
the most recent Early Retirement Scheme for Farmers
(ERS 3, June, 2007 p.2), was that Persons intending to
retire under the Scheme shall cease agricultural activity
forever. This largely unsuccessful scheme (it was suspended
in October, 2008) was completely oblivious to the mind-set
of many farmers as exemplied by Conway et al. (2016).
While we acknowledge that such economic efforts to
confront the issue are important, and indeed have been in
many aspects well meaning, Conway et al. (ibid) identi-
ed that farm transfer policy was underestimating the
importance of symbolic capital when discussing the issue of
intergenerational family farm transfer.
Symbolic capital denes the farmer as a social being.
A key element of symbolic capital for many older farmers
comprises being recognised as an active and productive
farmer in society, a status which is also central to a
farmers sense of self. However, as symbolic capital is
situational, the symbolic capital assigned to a person in
one situation may not necessarily carry over into other
situations (Christian and Bloome, 2004). Thus, the
prospect of going from being an active and productive
farmer to permanently ceasing all farming activity upon
retirement as demanded in this retirement scheme,
compromises the older generations lifetime accumula-
tion of symbolic capital and forces farmers to face a
number of what could be termed, painful realities. These
realitiescome with the consciousness of letting go of
ones professional identity, becoming a retiree, becoming
more dependent on others, the onset of old age and even
impending death. The resultant outcome leads farmers,
in many cases to resist stepping aside, even where it
represents economic common sense to engage in the
process. The fact that farm operations that would be
considered nancially sound, well-managed businesses
can slowly collapse and fail because the older generation
is unable or unwilling to face the contradicting desires of
seeing the next generation succeed yet retain the
independence and self-identity farming provides(Kirk-
patrick, 2013, p. 3) makes this a major concern.
As it is the senior generation who ultimately decide
whether intergenerational family farm transfer occurs
or not, even the most sophisticated of programs and
mechanisms designed to incentivise farm transfer will be
of little benet if policy makers and extension specialists
across the globe are not adequately cognizant and
understanding of the language of farming(Burton,
2004, p. 212) and how painful it is for the older genera-
tion to let goof their ingrained productivist self-image
(Conway et al., 2016). Indeed, as farmerssymbolic
capital is vested in the esteem in which he/she is held
amongst their peers as a good, actively engaged farmer,
policies that erode this capital base are likely to be
shunned. Therefore, until there is closer congruence of
policy aspirations and the symbolic capital of older
farmers, the progress towards increased levels of land
mobility in Irish agriculture will be an incremental
process. However, as there is a deeply ingrained rural
ideologythat prioritizes the process of handing over the
farm within the family, the formulation of intergenera-
tional farm transfer measures which augment rather than
detract from the senior generations cache of symbolic
capital, is by no means impossible. It is a recommenda-
tion of our research therefore, that any new initiatives to
support / encourage the process should not be conceived
so narrowly as to ignore possible social consequences or
wider issues of human dignity. Both emotional and
economic needs must be catered for, and ideally a policy
for structural reform in agriculture must be accompanied
by a comprehensive set of interventions to deal with the
personal and social loss an older farmer may experience
upon transferring the family farm. In order to do this,
we recommend that future policies and programmes
relating to family farm transfer take into account the
pervasiveness of symbolic capital and work within this
structure to effect change. For example, on its own, and
with the numerous perceived negative connotations asso-
ciated with it identied, perhaps the term Early Retire-
ment Schemeis no longer appropriate language for policy
makers to use in a farming context. Perhaps the term
Farm Progression Schemewould be more effective as
ISSN 2047-3710 International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1
24 &2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management
Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life Shane Francis Conway et al.
it portrays a sense of purposefulness rather than one
of cessation to an elderly farmer. The development of an
appropriate concept of retirement for agriculture, rather
than the adoption of what prevails in other sectors of
the economy is a task to which policy can connect
intergenerational farm transfer measures to the senior
generations ongoing assembly of symbolic capital.
In addition, instead of reporting that farm manage-
ment decisions are in the hands of a generation who may
be more resistant to structural change and growth, policy
makers and key stakeholders need to embrace, publicly
promote and recognise the older generations invaluable
store of locally specic tacit and lay knowledge devel-
oped over years of regularized interaction and experience
working on the family farm. As this farm-specicor
soil-specichuman capital (Laband and Lentz, 1983)
knowledge is not easily transferable, communicated or
learnable, the family farm may be left in the hands of a
young, inexperienced farmer, unable to make competent
management decisions without the continued guidance,
advice and knowledge of the senior generation. Indeed,
Weigel and Weigel (1990), point out that the succeeding
generation of farmers may seek to operate indepen-
dently, yet still be dependent on the life long experience
and knowledge of their elders. This may encourage the
senior generation to approach the transition with greater
enthusiasm and acceptance. The feeling of still being
valued and needed in society may reinforce the older
farmersmorale and sense of purpose in the face of the
gradual diminishment of their physical capacities, all the
while offering possibilities for a positive form of ageing
experience. The active advisory role ideology and dis-
course recommended here, may subsequently help to
diminish the stigma and defeatist stereotype associated
with transferring the family farm and subsequently
promote a more positive and wilful attitude towards
the process over time. The development of such strategies
concerning the emotional wellbeing of elderly farmers
has the potential to greatly ease the stresses of the
process.
4.2 Recommendation 2: Farm Succession
Facilitation Service
Specically, not unlike elsewhere in the world, Joint
Farming Ventures (JFVs), particularly farm partner-
ships, have recently been promoted within Irish policy
discourses as succession strategies that can provide an
ideal stepping stone to farm transfer as it provides a
function for intergenerational cooperation (Leonard
et al., 2017), whilst also allowing for greater recognition,
nancial independence and leadership opportunities for
the younger generation (ADAS, 2007). In an attempt to
entice and incentivize the uptake of such unconventional
ventures, the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and
the Marine launched a Collaborative Farming Grant
Scheme in 2015, funded under Irelands Rural Develop-
ment Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 and co-funded by
the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
(EAFRD), to encourage the establishment of new farm
partnership arrangements by contributing to the legal,
advisory and nancial services costs incurred by farmers
in the drawing up of their farm partnership agreement
(DAFM, 2015, p. 1). While appreciating the merits and
potential benets of this scheme, it again has, we would
argue, an overly simplied view of the factors inuencing
the succession process and fails to deal with the complex
emotional dynamics facing ageing farmers (Conway
et al. 2016; 2017; 2018). Conway et al. (2016) illustrate
that in many cases, the older generation, through their
own admission, prioritize the building and maintenance
of their personal possession of symbolic capital rather
than transferring the family farm, even to their own
children. In fact, Conway et al. (2017) discovered that
the senior generation employ an intricate array of
complex strategies and practices of symbolic violence in
an effort to sustain and maintain their position as head of
the farm. Therefore, while farm partnerships, appear to
tick all the boxesin relation to the ideal family farm
transfer facilitation strategy as they provide a function
for intergenerational cooperation, they will be of little
benet if farm transfer policy fails to consider methods of
addressing the micro-politics and management power
dynamics at play within family farm households.
The socially recognized and approved authority
afforded to older farmers via their formidable store of
symbolic capital appears to be a fact of social life within
farm households. The challenge for policy makers and
practitioners therefore is twofold. They must consider
methods in which this power can be legitimately exer-
cised by the senior generation, in the interest of whatever
goodis at hand (in this case to preserve the crucial
intergenerational dynamic of family farming, and allow
for the older generation to remain active and productive
on the farm, because being recognised as such is central
to their sense of self). Secondly however, policy makers
and practitioners need to remain cognizant of the fact
that such power has the potential to become symbolic
violence, and act against the good at hand (which, in this
case, would involve the inappropriate domination of the
younger generation by exploiting their symbolic power
as head of the household and farm). Having a clear
transitional role for both the incumbent and the suc-
cessor is seen to be vitally important (De Massis, et al.,
2008). According to Palliam et al. (2011), clarication
of role, responsibilities, and ownership stakes will give
successors the time they need to establish their credibility
and independences(p. 26) to manage the business. This
echoes previous family farm literature over the past three
decades which has continuously highlighted the reduc-
tion in management control as an important element of
the process. Salamon and Markan (1984) previously
stressed that the older farmer must encourage younger
family members to be involved, bring them into the
decision-making process and permit some sharing of
control to maintain peak efciency(p. 174).
As every farmer and each family situation is unique,
we acknowledge that there are no uniform or easily
prescribed solutions to solving this complex challenge,
however as suggested by Nuthall and Old (2017), changing
farmersobjectives and management style needs to be
handled professionally(p. 56). With that in mind, we
advocate that the services of a certied Farm Succession
Facilitator, trained in accordance with an international
best practice model, such as the one offered by the
International Farm Transition Network (IFTN) in the
U.S.A., is essential; particularly when facilitating discus-
sions between old and young family membersobjectives,
goals and expectations for the farm. The goal of the
IFTN is to support programs and activities that foster
International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1 ISSN 2047-3710
&2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management 25
Shane Francis Conway et al. Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life
the next generation of farmers. The network believes that
programs that help create the opportunity for young
people to begin a career in agriculture, particularly by
addressing land mobility, must be part of the govern-
ments rural development effort.
Role and Duties of the Farm Succession Facilitator
The role of a certied IFTN Farm Succession Facilitator
is not to come up with instant solutions, instead they
guide and support farm members through the steps of the
farm transfer planning process in an unbiased manner.
The Facilitator helps address the complex and often
problematic succession planning issues encountered by
farm families by identifying the unique requirements of
each member and then directing them towards the many
different tools, resources and strategies needed to achieve
a shared transition vision that ensures the future con-
tinuity and prosperity of the farm operation. In line with
recommendations set out by the IFTN, the facilitation
sessions are most benecial when they take place outside
the family home. Bennett (2006), in her ethnographic
exploration of power relationships in a Dorset farm-
house, noted that the kitchen table is the centre of the
home. The seating position round this table may reect
power dynamics within the family, as the older genera-
tion sit in their customary seat at the top of the table
(Barclay, 2012). In order to neutralize such a hierarchical
household structure, the Facilitator conducts the meeting
with farm members at a roundtable in a neutral environ-
ment where everyone in attendance must renegotiate
their position.
The key roles and duties of an IFTN Farm Succession
Facilitator follow a three-step blueprint: Step 1: Where
is the farm now; Step 2: Where do you want to be; and
Step 3: How do you get there.
1. The rst step involves the Facilitator bringing all farm
members together to discuss, evaluate and clarify the
current status of the farm business, such as conrming
its size, nancials and efciency. This process enables
members from both generations to obtain and share
all the essential components and necessary informa-
tion required to move through the succession plan-
ning process, and work efciently with other relevant
professionals involved. Getting the whole family to
sit around a table together during this initial stage of
the process also helps the Facilitator to identify those
who may dominate discussions around the future
direction of the farm, previously brought to light by
Conway et al. (2017). A skilled IFTN Farm Succes-
sion Facilitator does so by gauging how farm mem-
bers communicate and interact with each other, and
also by observing the body language of those involved
in these discussions.
2. The second step involves the Farm Succession
Facilitator having one-to-one meetings with farm
members from both generations. These sessions help
the Facilitator to uncover each individuals views,
their perceived role on the farm and how they foresee the
farm business being dealt with in the future. Following
on from these individual meetings, the Facilitator brings
all farm members together again to coordinate an open
discussion between those involved on any issues and/or
disparities that may have arisen from each individual
sharing their own values, vision, mission, goals and indeed
fears for the future of the farm. As unspoken, misunder-
stood, or different visions in the same familyare reported
to lead to conictsin family businesses (Aronoff and
Ward, 1994, p. 75), this is the most important part of the
facilitation process. Intergenerational communication is
key to effective succession planning. Indeed, Lange et al.
(2011) argue that closed communication styles in which
family members are not encouraged to share their feelings
and opinions openly, tend to result in more stress within
the family unit and can even result in a breakup of the
farm and a breakup of the family(Hicks et al., 2012,
p. 101). These fruitful discussions towards the latter stage
of step two can help clarify expectations and avoid
assumptions amongst farm members.
3. The third and nal step involves the Facilitator
leading thorough discussions on suitable farm transi-
tion options and strategies with farm members.
Achieving outcomes with a shared understanding
and common agreement by engaging in this process
will help farm members from both generations to
make better informed decisions on the future trajec-
tory of the farm, in a collective manner. As succession
planning not only involves the transfer of labour,
skills, management and decision making to an
identied successor, but also the transfer of assets,
building a team of resource professionals to help in
the transition process is another fundamental feature
of this stage of the facilitation process. Financial ana-
lysis from a team of accountants, nancial advisors
and tax planners for example, is required to ensure the
business can support the monetary goals of all farm
members. Other services for farms in the process of
transitioning, such as a solicitor/attorney, who is well
informed of the language of farming, is also advisable
to assist in the creation of a farm will. Research by
Conway et al. (2018) discovered that over 40% of older
farmers do have a will in place, hence the importance of
taking this important step on the path towards successful
intergenerational farm transfer.
Throughout this three-step facilitation process, the
Farm Succession Facilitator must ensure to keep
discussions on track. Tension and even conict can arise
from almost any aspect of the succession plan. If open
and honest communication is not developed in the
beginning, a seemingly trivial issue can stop a succession
plan in its tracks. A skilled Facilitator also ensures that
tough questions and emotions are dealt with and various
what ifscenarios are investigated. By helping farm
members navigate through difcult conversations, the
Farm Succession Facilitator develops contingencies to
address topics such as disagreement, disability, divorce
and even death (Wenger, 2010). Several authors have
also highlighted that initiating the process of handing
over the family business, forces the incumbent to face
their own mortality, hence the signicance of addressing
this topic in a sensitive manner (Bjuggren and Lund,
2001; Pitts et al., 2009; Nuthall and Old, 2017).
It is also essential for Farm Succession Facilitators
to be acutely aware and knowledgeable of the defence
mechanisms and tactics utilized by the older generation
to avoid and deter the delegation of managerial respon-
sibilities from occurring (Conway et al., 2017). Analyti-
cally, so broad however, we acknowledge that Bourdieus
use of the word violencein his concept of symbolic
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26 &2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management
Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life Shane Francis Conway et al.
violence, is contentious and indeed may confuse denota-
tion to such an extent that it may result in such pro-
fessionals referring to disparate and incompatible
events and experiences of succession and retirement
whilst referring to the same conceptual apparatus. In
recognition of the concepts potential for misinterpre-
tation, we therefore feel compelled to rephrase sym-
bolic violence to symbolic authoritarianismand/or
symbolic sabotagewhen providing Farm Succession
Facilitators with an overview of the micro-politics and
management power dynamics at play within family
farm households.
Furthermore, we recommend that it is also imperative
for such professionals to be cognisant of, and empathize
with the older generationsemotional needs and cogni-
tive insecurities about succession and retirement, since
psychodynamic and socio dynamic deterrents constitute
a major obstacle to the development of a plan for the
future (Conway et al. 2016). Such a holistic under-
standing and knowledge of the human dynamics of the
process will equip succession facilitators on the ground
with the necessary credibility, skill, reverence and trust
needed to personally engage with older farmers and
ultimately strengthen their willingness to address the
issue. Indeed, research suggests that effective facilitators
need a mix of external insights and local acceptance (Slee
et al., 2006).
Farm Succession Facilitation Service implementation
Intergenerational debates about collaborative working
processes professionally initiated and guided by a trained
Farm Succession Facilitator, will allow for the succession
process to be developed, based on a more logical than
emotional perspective. According to Nuthall and Old
(2017) however farmers need a strong incentive to work
on their style and objective factors which are holding
back succession(p. 56). There must be a seed that stimu-
lates the need to act. Barclay et al. (2007), and previously
Glauben et al. (2004), highlighted that in many cases the
older generation believe that succession is something
they should deal with in isolation, without consulting
other members of the family or even an outside consul-
tant. Therefore, instead of facilitation being a voluntary
service available to farmers, we recommend that existing
and future policies and programmes encouraging family
farm transfer and supporting younger farmers, insist on a
course of mandatory facilitation sessions with a certied
Farm Succession Facilitator. Ideally these would be
funded or subsidised by the Department of Agriculture,
Food and the Marine (DAFM), with the proviso that in
order to be eligible to apply and become involved in a
Joint Farming Venture, such as a farm partnership for
example, such facilitation sessions must be availed of.
Effective communication is vital in the farm transfer
planning process and such an implementation has the
potential to greatly enhance the uptake and success of
existing and future policy measures. Furthermore, we
recommend that this compulsory facilitation requirement
be extended beyond merely supporting those directly
considering farm transfer and added as a criteria for all
younger farmers hoping to obtain an Advanced Level 6
Certicate in Agriculture (the Green Cert obtained at
agricultural universities and colleges in the Republic of
Ireland), that qualies them for stock relief and stamp
duty exemptions as Young Trained Farmers. This new
module at third level education would stimulate and
encourage open lines of intergenerational communica-
tion within family farm households, whether they are in
the process of farm transfer planning or not, something
that currently seems not to be the case. Lange et al.
(2011) explains that the more open the communication
style within the family, the less stress that occurs and the
easier it is to address stress that does occur (p. 3).
We acknowledge that a voluntary succession media-
tion service already exists in the Republic of Ireland. The
role and indeed usefulness of mediation in the farm
transfer planning process is also outlined in Teagascs
Guide to Transferring the Family Farm (Teagasc, 2015).
In many ways, facilitation and mediation are similar,
but in the most elementary way, they are signicantly
different: mediation is generally seen as intervention
in a dispute (e.g. in marriage separation or divorce) in
order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation
whereas facilitation is primarily used pre-conict. Due
to the potential negative and conictual connotations
associated with the term mediation service,wesuggest
that the term facilitation serviceis more appropriate
forpolicytouseinafarmtransfer planning context as
it may stimulate a more wilful attitude towards the
process.
4.3 Recommendation 3: Establishment of a
National Voluntary Organisation for older
farmers
A third recommendation we would argue for, is that
policy makers and practitioners re-examine their domi-
nant focus on economic-based incentives by becoming
more aware and knowledgeable of the intrinsic farmer-
farm relationship (Conway et al., 2018). Such under-
standing will be crucial when reforming and developing
future initiatives and strategies that seek to encourage the
transfer of farm process by prioritising future interven-
tions that maintain the quality of life of those concerned.
A signicant obstacle to the intergenerational farm
transfer process is the rigid inexibility of the occupa-
tional role, where farmers wish to remain rooted in
placeon the farm and in many cases, have developed
few interests outside of farming (Riley, 2012). As there
are no bodies or services currently in existence in the
Republic of Ireland that specically represent the needs
and interests of the older farmer in rural areas, we
recommend the establishment of a national voluntary
organisation that specically represents the needs of the
senior generation of the farming community, equivalent
to that of younger people in rural Ireland i.e. Macra na
Feirme. Macra na Feirme is a voluntary, rural youth
organisation in the Republic of Ireland for people
between the ages of 17 and 35. Founded in 1944, the
organisation now has over 9,000 members across
approximately 200 clubs in 31 regions around the
country (Macra na Feirme, 2018). One of the organisa-
tions main aims is to help young farmers get established
in farming and assist them through learning and skills
development.
Suited to the older generations own interests and
needs identied (Conway et al., 2016; 2018), such a
voluntary organisation, funded annually by the Govern-
ment and through membership, would provide the older
generation with a support around which they could
International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1 ISSN 2047-3710
&2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management 27
Shane Francis Conway et al. Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life
remain embedded insidetheir farms and social circles in
later life. A nationwide voluntary organisation, with a
network of clubs in every county across the country,
would allow older farmers to integrate within the social
fabric of a local age peer group, whilst also providing
them with opportunities to develop a pattern of farming
activities suited to advancing age. This would contribute
to their overall sense of insideness, and, therefore, sense
of self-worth, amidst the gradual diminishment of their
physical capacities on the farm in later life. Collaborat-
ing with their younger counterparts in Macra na Feirme
on various campaigns and activities would also allow the
senior generation to retain a sense of purpose and value
in old age.
Similar to Macra na Feirme, this body for older
farmers, with their added wealth of experience, would
act as a social partner farm organisation together with
the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) for example, that
would allow them to have regular access to government
ministers and senior civil servants, thus providing them
with a voice to raise issues of concern. Indeed, such a
group could be invaluable with regard to the develop-
ment of future farm transfer strategies that would truly
be cognisant of the human side of the process of inter-
generational renewal. An established organisation for
older farmers would also allow this sector of society to
have a representative on important committees such as
the Executive Council of the Irish FarmersAssociation
(IFA) and the Board of Teagasc for example, and on
other relevant stakeholder groups, similar to their
younger counterparts.
4.4 Recommendation 4: Occupational health
and safety in agriculture awareness
On a related aspect, and while not central to the
discussion so far, is the issue of occupational health and
safety on the farm. The insight into the senior generations
deeply-embedded sense of insideness towards their respec-
tive farms developed by Conway et al. (2018) suggests that
there is much to be learned from the analysis of the
farmer-farm relationship that would benet this very
signicant contemporary challenge. Farming is one of
the most hazardous occupations in terms of the incidence
and seriousness of accidental injuries (Glasscock, et al.,
2007). Moreover, agriculture exhibits disproportionately
high fatality rates, when compared to other sectors (ibid).
With almost half of all farm fatalities in the Republic of
Ireland and many other European Union member states
involving farmers aged 65 and over (HSA, 2013), this
phenomenon requires immediate policy intervention.
The deeply-embedded farmer-farm relationship offers
potential for understanding why many farmers are
unwilling to recognize or accept their physical limitations
on the farm (Peters et al., 2008) and instead, continue to
traverse spaces that would appear to be beyond their
level of physiological competence (Ponzetti, 2003), with
subsequent risks to their health and safety. The general
satisfaction and well-being that the older generation of
the farming community attribute to the daily and
seasonal labour-intensive demands of working on the
farm in later life, appears to be part of the farming
psyche. Such an insight into the intrinsic link to farm
attachment in old age and the importance attributed to
the habitual routines within the farm setting, will provide
the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and member
organisations of the HSA Farm Safety Partnership
Advisory committee in the Republic of Ireland with an
invaluable understanding of the various actions taken by
(or should be taken by) older farmers to handle age-
related physical limitations and barriers on their farms.
This knowledge will aid in the development of an
effective health and safety service tailored specically to
the needs of older farmers.
5. Conclusion
In drawing all these issues together, the recommenda-
tions set forth in this paper, are geared specically
towards informing more appropriate, farmer-sensitive
generational renewal in agriculture policy directions.
Indeed, we would argue that what is put forward here
represents what, in all probability, are the rst attempts
to deal with one of the most challenging agricultural /
rural sustainability issues of our time. Issues which have
not been explored in any real depth since the late
Dr. Patrick (Packie) Comminsproposals in the early
1970s (Commins, 1973; Commins and Kelleher, 1973).
The fact that the average age of the farming population
is increasing worldwide, means that the recommenda-
tions presented in this paper are very timely. As the
future success of the family farm business may hinge on
its ability to maintain internal stability, existing attitudes
towards succession must change in order to make the
transition between generations less problematic and
more efcient. To change the world,Bourdieu(1990,
p. 23) argues, one must change the ways of world making,
that is, the vision of the world and the practical operations
by which groups are produced and reproduced (ibid).
A cultural shift on an age-old problem of farm succession
requires well-informed and intelligent policy interventions
and strategies which understand the complex nature of the
process, like those outlined here.
In recognition of the heterogeneity of the farming
population however, the ideas presented here should not
be viewed as one size ts all modelfor xingthe farm
succession situation. Policy interventions must be geared
to the individual circumstances and specic conditions of
any given case. This may encourage the senior genera-
tion to approach the transition with greater enthusiasm
and acceptance. Anyone who considers such recommen-
dations to be too idealistic, should remember that we all
inevitably have to face the prospect of letting go of our
professional tasks and ties in our old age. No one can
avoid ageing and as the lead author of this paper iden-
tied in Conway et al. (2016; 2017; 2018), most elderly
farmers opt to maintain the facade of normal day to day
activity and behaviour instead of retiring. As such, this
recommendations paper, in attempting to understand
and acknowledge the world as farmers perceive it, can be
drawn upon to inform future generational renewal in
agriculture policy directions and as a consequence
prevent older farmers from being isolated and excluded
from society almost by accident rather than intention.
About the authors
Dr Shane Francis Conway is a Postdoctoral Researcher
in the Discipline of Geographys Rural Studies Research
Cluster at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
ISSN 2047-3710 International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 8 Issue 1
28 &2019 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management
Human dynamics and the farm transfer process in later life Shane Francis Conway et al.
Dr John McDonagh is a Senior Lecturer in Rural
Geography in the Discipline of Geography, National
University of Ireland, Galway.
Dr Maura Farrell is a Lecturer in Rural Geography
and Director of the MA in Rural Sustainability in the
Discipline of Geography, National University of Ireland,
Galway.
Anne Kinsella is a Senior Research Economist at Teagasc,
the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in
Ireland, where she specialises in area of production econo-
mics and farm level agricultural economics research.
Acknowledgement
Funding for this project was provided by the National
University of Ireland, Galway, College of Arts, Social
Sciences, and Celtic Studies Doctoral Research Scholar-
ship Scheme and the Geographical Society of Ireland
postgraduate travel award bursary. We would also like
to thank Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Develop-
ment Authority in Ireland, for their assistance with this
research.
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The senior generation’s unwillingness to relinquish managerial duties and retire is a globally recognized characteristic of intergenerational family farm transfer. This is despite the array of financial incentives put in place to stimulate and entice the process. Applying Rowles’ concept of ‘insideness’ as a theoretical framework, this paper brings into focus the suitability and appropriateness of previous and existing farm transfer policy strategies, by presenting an insightful, nuanced analysis of the deeply embedded attachment older farmers have with their farms, and how such a bond can stifle the necessary hand over of the farm business to the next generation. This research employs a multi-method triangulation design, consisting of a self-administered questionnaire and an Irish adaptation of the International FARMTRANSFERS Survey in conjunction with complimentary Problem-Centred Interviews, to generate a comprehensive insight into the intricate, multi-level farmer-farm relationship in later life. The overriding themes to emerge from the content analysis of the empirical research are farmer’s inherit desire to stay rooted in place in old age and also to maintain legitimate connectedness within the farming community by remaining active and productive on the farm. Additionally, there is a strong sense of nostalgia attributed to the farm, as it is found to represent a mosaic of the farmer’s achievements as well as being a landscape of memories. The paper concludes by suggesting that a greater focus on the farmer-farm relationship has the potential to finally unite farm transfer policy efforts with the mind-set of its targeted audience, after decades of disconnect.
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The rising average age of farmers and low level of young farmer entry is viewed as problematic on a global scale and farm partnerships are presented as a possible means by which farm succession and inheritance could take place in a timely manner. Using the example of Ireland, this research investigates a recent proposal by government to introduce a tax relief as an incentive for farmers to part take in farm partnerships. In this discussion, a hypothetical microsimulation model is used to investigate the possible outcomes of such a tax relief, with scenarios created to examine how this would materialise. It draws on the Teagasc National Farm Survey data which provides Irish data to the Farm Accountancy Data Network in the European Commission. The findings illustrate that even with a tax relief, cattle rearing farms would struggle to reap any economic benefit from entering a farm partnership, while their dairy counterparts would receive more value from tax reliefs. Results also indicate that farm viability will play a large role in whether or not collaborative farming is viewed as an option for farmers. KEYWORDS: Farm partnership; succession; inheritance; collaborative farming
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