Irish Organics, Innovation and Farm Collaboration: A Pathway to Farm Viability and Generational Renewal

The family farm has been the pillar of rural society for decades, stabilising rural economies and strengthening social and cultural traditions. Nonetheless, family farm numbers across Europe are declining as farmers endeavour to overcome issues of climate change, viability, farm structural change and intergenerational farm succession. Issues around farm viability and a lack of innovative agricultural practices play a key role in succession decisions, preventing older farmers from passing on the farm, and younger farmers from taking up the mantel. A multifunctional farming environment, however, increasingly encourages family farms to embrace diversity and look towards innovative and sustainable practices. Across the European Union, organic farming has always been a strong diversification option, and although, historically, its progress was limited within an Irish context, its popularity is growing. To examine the impact of organic farm diversification on issues facing the Irish farm family, this paper draws on a qualitative case study with a group of Irish organic farmers engaged in the Maximising Organic Production System (MOPS) EIP-AGRI Project. The case study was constructed using a phased approach where each stage shaped the next. This started with a desk-based analysis, then moving on to semi-structured interviews and a focus group, which were then consolidated with a final feedback session. Data gathering occurred in mid to late 2020. Research results reveal the uptake of innovative practices not only improve farm viability, but also encourage the next generation of young farmers to commit to the family farm and consider farming long-term.

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