Social Forces and Cultural Factors Influencing Farm Transition

by Shoshanah Inwood


Numerous studies demonstrate that farm transitions are influenced by farm family dynamics, socio-cultural values, land tenure, succession, and community factors in addi- tion to economic conditions. While researchers and policy makers may inherently know that social forces and cultural factors are important to farm household survival and succession, it is often difficult to pinpoint what the issues are and how to address them.

Enterprise structure and succes- sion models need to be created that better account for farm diversification by reflecting the different roles and skills each family member contributes towards production, marketing, and household functions. Policies and programs should be more responsive to the cultural, ethnic, and gender diversity of producers as they influ- ence farmer and rancher goals, values, motivations, and technical assistance needs. Finally, we must examine how well rural development policies coordinate with farm transition and market infrastructure policies to en- sure there are vibrant communities to which farm heirs want to return and to which new farmers want to move. Health care and childcare are key parts of this discussion.

To build a more vibrant and re- silient farm economy that enhances the quality of life of farm and ranch families, it is necessary to expand our approach to farm transition at the federal, state, and community levels to include the social forces and cul- tural factors that impact producers.

Inwood explores the unique challenges to farm business and farm families as a subset of family businesses in the United States. Farm families show surprising resiliency compared to their non-farm and urban counterparts. Generational transitions and differentiations of labor make adaptation and succession difficult for farms to sustain family succession.

Is family succession of farms sustainable? What barriers does this model pose to those desiring to enter agriculture from outside of it? Are the social benefits of the diversification of farms worth the potential losses in efficiency compared to larger, industrialized productions such as those seen in the poultry industry?