Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Developmental strategies of contemporary family farms

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.03.02  Humanities  Anthropology  Social and cultural anthropology 

Code Science Field
S220  Social sciences  Cultural anthropology, ethnology 

Code Science Field
6.05  Humanities  Other humanities 
Agricultural anthropology, cultural ecology, family farming, developmental strategies, age and gender relations
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (5)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  26523  PhD Alenka Bartulović  Ethnology  Researcher  2011 - 2014  259 
2.  09175  PhD Bojan Baskar  Culturology  Head  2011 - 2014  431 
3.  05735  PhD Majda Černič Istenič  Sociology  Researcher  2011 - 2014  412 
4.  11849  PhD Dušanka Knežević Hočevar  Anthropology  Researcher  2011 - 2014  336 
5.  22414  PhD Jaka Repič  Anthropology  Researcher  2011 - 2014  360 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0581  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts  Ljubljana  1627058  95,465 
2.  0618  Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts  Ljubljana  5105498000  61,981 
Scientific background of the proposed research consists of actual problematics of agricultural anthropology, anthropology of peasants, agricultural history, rural demography, rural sociology and other disciplines involved with the study of things agricultural and rural. The issue of family farming is currently highly relevant and its relevance is also mirrored in the increasing research on the issue both abroad and in Slovenia. There are at least three reasons for this increase in interest: firstly, family farming remains the prevailing form of agricultural production in the world; secondly, providing for global food safety is becoming the priority task of agricultural development worldwide due to global demographic trends and the climate change; and thirdly, from the perspective of the very limited food safety in Slovenia, improving this situation is a critical aim of agricultural development defined as sustainable. The in-depth knowledge about developmental strategies of farm-family holders should thus be highly valued. The current central orientation of Slovenian agricultural policy is multifunctional sustainable farming which, besides production of quality food and food security, aims at preservation of the settled countryside and cultural landscape, at protection of agricultural land and water from pollution, and at steady increase of agricultural competitiveness. These goals, however, do not meet the facts on the ground that reveal a poorly exploited economic potential of family farms. With the explicit aim of accelerating structural changes on farm holdings, the measures of setting up of young farmers and early retirement of farmers have been implemented in Slovenia. Therefore, the proposed project revolves around the question of whether the farm households, the beneficiaries of both forms of aid respectively, are also the key agents of development, designed as multifunctional and sustainable. The main objective of the project is to build new knowledge of developmental potentials and orientation of farms that are recognized as the key agents of such policies. Developmental orientation of family farming is being studied in particular with the reference to the problematics and concepts such as family farm as both a business and a family, modernization, the changing roles of age-generations and gender on family farms. Sustainable development of farming is also the subject of intense research in cultural ecology and agricultural anthropology. The proposed research anticipates several phases and diverse methods of work. It also anticipates a flexible combination of anthropological and sociological methods and techniques, both quantitative and qualitative, in order to build new knowledge of developmental strategies of family farming and of profiles of developers, as well as to generate more general anthropological insights into cultural assumptions of Slovenian farmers regarding rural development. It also anticipates a critical evaluation of the concepts, terminology and theories used in the study of family farming. The envisaged duration of the project is three years. In the first year, the collection and analysis of relevant scientific and professional literature, an analysis of the extant survey database, and preparation for the fieldwork is envisaged. The second year is to be largely devoted to field research based on a range of standard ethnographic methods and techniques such as participant observation, interviews, ethnographic notes and diaries, and so forth. The field will consist of a pair of contrasting locales (unfavourable vs. favourable conditions for agriculture). The third year will focus on the analysis of the obtained field material and the formulation of the final report.
Significance for science
The results of this anthropologically designed project offer new knowledge on developmental strategies of family farming; through gender and generation perspectives the results upgrade van der Ploeg’s established model of developmental strategies of family farms. The anthropological study of multigenerational farm families in several locations of favourable and unfavourable conditions for farming has shown that family farms whose members commonly negotiate important decisions on developmental paths of their activities more successfully cope with economic, ecological and global challenges irrespective of their farm size, main production and non-production activities, mechanization, the number of family members, their education and employment on the farm or outside the farm. The approach that focused on the analysis of life careers of the older and younger family members, their understanding of development through daily activities in a particular community and wider environment has also shown that distinctive and traditional division of labour by gender and generation was not necessarily the break for innovative transformation on farms. However, this was conditional, if every activity of family members was ascribed a positive value by other family members. Only the anthropologically designed research has explained the previously obtained result from the sociological survey that from a developmental view (the farm size, mechanization, number of children, education), the beneficiaries of the aid for young and early retired farmers were more promising compared to the non-beneficiaries of both forms of aid, despite the finding that inflexible organisation of labour tasks by gender and generations was typical for the beneficiaries’ farms. The result that farms with a secured successor (but the ‘real’ householder), who together with other family members negotiates and takes decisions about innovative directions of farm’s activities, was revealed only through the observation of family relationship dynamics, which the survey omitted. Therefore, the results of the anthropological study have proved that it is necessary to explain van der Ploeg’s model through the observation of synchronic and diachronic life cycles of a particular farm or its family members. Only such a research perspective enables the identification and contextualisation of turning points of introducing, practicing, negotiating or quitting certain developmental paths on the farm. However, such a perspective also introduces the employment of other concepts – e.g. person, value, hope – in order to encounter moral economies of the authors of developmental policy on the one hand, and working actors in the field on the other hand. The project results contribute new knowledge about contemporary rural transformation in Slovenia in general and farming in particular in the framework of rare domestic ethnological-anthropological studies of the issue, and complement agrarian economists’ and rural sociologists’ understanding of developmental strategies of real actors in the field. Finally, the results are useful for comparative analyses of discrepancies between the visions of development by the authors of the European political projects on sustainable farming and their understanding and practicing by farmers. In sum, the project has proved the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the issues of development, particularly the contribution of social anthropology, which by employing its own conceptual tools and field-work observation can contribute specific insights that are often neglected by other scientific disciplines.
Significance for the country
The project results that explain the understanding of development and its practicing among the major addressees of the national strategic development documents, who are the carriers of the prevailing form of farming in Slovenia (family farming) are applicable for agriculture as a segment of the economy. The developmental strategies of the farm holders themselves are usually overlooked both by family farming research itself and by the prevailing public discussions, which over-communicate harmonisation of national agriculture policy with the required regulations of the CAP and under-communicate the need to understand the agency of family farming actors themselves. The project results are applicable for the authors and performers of the Rural Development Programme 2014–2020, which again seeks to improve agricultural competitiveness, quality of rural life and diversification of the rural economy through the rejuvenation of the generations (aid to young farmers). The findings about the performers of sustainable agriculture in the field are significant as feedback information to the creators of the Resolution on the Strategic Guidelines for the Development of Slovenian Agriculture and Food Industry until 2020, particularly in view of multifunctional sustainable farming. The results are directly applicable for the farming advisers, particularly those dealing with the farm families at the Agriculture and Forestry Chamber of Slovenia. The advisers are in a position to compare and confront the results of their own work in the field with the results of the project. Finally, through pedagogical transfer and dissemination of the results by active participation at scientific (foreign and domestic) conferences and some other professional and media events, the project team contributes to the education of young professionals (university students of the above-mentioned study programmes) as well as to international and domestic scientific networking.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2011, 2012, 2013, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2011, 2012, 2013, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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