Neither ‘Family’ Nor ‘Corporate’ Farming: Australian Tomato Growers as Farm Family Entrepreneurs
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For the past two decades there has been much debate about the future of family farming. The basic question on which this debate has turned is whether current pressures on family farm systems should be understood as symptomatic of a terminal condition, in which farmers are replaced progressively by corporate ownership; or whether family farms will persist as a social formation, albeit increasingly subsumed by off-farm interests. Using evidence from the Australian processing tomato sector, this article documents the changing social and economic formation of 'family farming'. We argue that in this industry, the appropriate way to describe farmers is through the deployment of that a new category of farming; farm family entrepreneurs. This phrase is coined to describe the situation where family units remain at the social and economic heart of farm ownership and operation, but in the context where they relate to their land-based assets through legal and financial structures characteristic of the wider economy. As this article explores, this formation seems to represent an accommodating modus operandi for farm units within neo-liberal agricultural governance. Nevertheless, however, this duality of family-based structures and capitalist entrepreneurialism inevitably provokes a series of tensions, whose resolution requires a variety of organizational strategies to be put in place.
Journal of Rural Studies