Farmers resist transferring the land to the next generation, due to an anticipated loss of the recognition and social status that accompanied their position as an active and productive farmer.
And those who retire are generally perceived by interviewees to have a defeatist attitude, or to have retired due to ill health.
So say Teagasc researchers who are investigating attitudes to transfer of the family farm business.
They point out it is this older generation that ultimately decides if enthusiastic young farmers can gain access to productive assets, thus improving competitiveness of the agricultural sector.
They say any new initiative to support and encourage family farm transfer must ideally be accompanied by interventions to deal with the personal and social loss an older farmer may experience due to transfer.
So far, this has not been the case,
For example, the most recent Early Retirement Scheme for farmers (in 2007) essentially required farmers to revise their self-perceptions upon retirement, stipulating that: ‘Persons intending to retire under the Scheme shall cease agricultural activity forever’.
Instead, most elderly farmers opt to maintain the facade of normal day-to-day activity and behaviour instead of retiring, according to Teagasc researchers, whose findings are reported in the current edition of the TResearch magazine published by Teagasc.
The researchers came to their conclusions after distributing questionnaires to a randomly-selected sample of farmers in attendance at ‘Transferring the Family Farm’ clinics delivered by Teagasc in September and October, 2014, throughout Ireland.
They also conducted interviews with 10% of questionnaire respondents, who gave their consent to be interviewed.
According to the research team, identity and self-esteem are strongly attributed by farmers to their occupation and, as a result, sacrificing one’s professional and personal identity upon transferring managerial control of the farm and retiring is a concept that they find difficult to accept.
For example, 72-year-old dairy farmer Jack, from the south east, has no intention of retiring from farming: “Have I considered retiring? Never ... I couldn’t, I just couldn’t! I’d be always saying I’ll take it easy, but I couldn’t, I have that drive to keep going ... sure I am up every morning at half six and I could be going until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, so I couldn’t even imagine it.
“I make out it wouldn’t be good, because I think it’s important to be active, I enjoy it. I like to farm.
“But if I had to retire, it would not be for a few more years. I’m only 72, so definitely not for a few more years.”
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