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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Limited value placed on how painful it is for older farmers to ‘let go’ of farms’

A new paper has explored and identified socio-cultural barriers for younger farmers in Ireland and Iowa.

Dr Shane Conway and Dr Maura Farrell in the Rural Studies Centra at NUI Galway compared International FARMTRANSEFRS data from Ireland and the state of Iowa, USA.

They found a “substantial” percentage of Irish farmers (52%) and Iowa farmers (40%), who have identified a successor.

Therefore, they stated that this signifies a “resurgence” in demand from the younger generation for a career in farming, provided they can take over the farm in a timely manner.

Succession and wills

Findings from the nationally representative sample of Irish farmers in the FARMTRANSFERS identified that farmers are “ill-prepared” for succession.

77% revealed that they do not have a succession plan in place.

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Moreover, 52% of respondents do not have a will in place. This finding, analogous to results obtained from Iowa, revealed that 66% of respondents do not have a formal succession plan.

The researcher’s analysis of survey data from Ireland found that this lack of preparedness exists in spite of the fact that the inherent desire to keep the farm in the family is “clearly evident” in findings.

Only 4% of respondents ‘desired succession and inheritance outcome’ was to ‘sell the farm’.

A spokesperson said: “Such findings indicate little headway has been made in bringing about regularised and accepted practices of intergenerational farm transfer within the farming community, despite an array of financial enticements encouraging the process over the past four decades.”

Sense of place and purpose

Extensive, widely published research by Dr Conway over the past nine years found that this is because the older farmer’s sense of place and purpose attached to the family farm supersedes economic imperatives stimulating the transfer of the family farm to the next generation.

Dr Conway said: “There is a limited value placed on how painful it is for older farmers to ‘let go’ of their farms and their ingrained productivist self-image in later life.”

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