Family strategies and farming changes: the case of family farming in the Basque Country
Mauleón Gómez, José Ramón
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Power and gender in european rural development : 32-43 (2004)
Productive changes introduced by family dairy farms in the Basque Country seem to depend on a number of conditions, such as the farm's capacity for generating an adequate level of income, the possibility of finding an off-farm job, the family coming together on a common plan or strategy, whether the would-be successor sees the working conditions inherent in dairy farming in a positive way, or the mother’s role. It has become clear that the role played by mothers over 49 years old is crucial, because of their self-sacrifice both in supporting the offspring’s decision to take over the farm, and in maintaining productive activity where the farmer only works part-time. These mothers, rather than women in general, seem to be a key aspect in family farming. Families take decisions evaluating their own resources (labour, economic, desires, etc) and the external context within which they are located (prices, policies, possibilities of an external job, etc). After considering all these elements, the domestic group decides whether a successor will continue farming. The concept ‘family strategy’ summarises possible decisions, and the typology of families is a good indicator of the possible strategies. Since the holding is an economic resource serving family interests, farm changes will vary depending on the family's decision. Therefore, although family farming is a homogenous type of farming, family farmers are not a homogenous type of family. The type of family is a good indicator of this reproductive plan, and forms an appropriate criterion for understanding the present characteristics of farms and future productive innovations.