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Taking the Leap and Sustaining the Journey: Diversification on the Irish Family Farm

Moroney, Aisling, O'Reilly, Seamus, O'Shaughnessy, Mary
Journal of agriculture, food systems, and community development 2016 v.6 no.4 pp. 1-21
entrepreneurship, family farms, farmers, food supply chain, households, models, motivation, Ireland
A range of push and pull factors encourage Irish farmers to diversify their operations, but they remain largely reluctant entrepreneurs, wedded to productivist models of agriculture. This paper is based on a study which involved intensive inter-views conducted throughout Ireland in 2013 with a sample of 15 farm households who are "bucking the trend" and selling farm produce into short food supply chains. Using the literature on farm entrepreneurialism as an organizing framework, this paper explores the journey taken by these farm households and identifies the motivations and abilities that initiate and sustain this behavior. The results demonstrate the dynamic and complex nature of family farm entrepreneurialism. Of particular note is the importance of more ideological and socio-cultural motivations. This highlights the need for farm diversification supports to be themselves multifaceted as well as tailored to the circumstances of individual farm households. The paper emphasizes the inherent value of the more small-scale farmer entrepreneurs who may never "scale up," but who contribute to overall rural sustainability and economic life and who are meeting their own multiple goals.