The Future of Family Farms in Switzerland: Perceptions of Risks and Chances

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
CLM.7.03 (Clement House)
Christine Jurt, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland
Stefan Mann, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland
Family farms are characterized by a particularly strong interplay of work by family members of different age, sex and roles. The family and the farm are closely interconnected. The organization of work on the farms and in the household have been characterized by rather traditional gender roles. The farm as the main livelihood activity used to be a decisive factor for family life. Nowadays,  family farms undergo deep changes due to economic, political but also social and cultural changes. They feel a high degree of uncertainty concerning their own future and develop their own responses. In Switzerland, this general trend is underlined through constituting a traditional and relatively inefficient sector in a very competitive and wealthy environment.

In this paper, we address the farming families’ risk perceptions that are underlying their actions. In contrast to common agricultural risk management approaches that are based on rational assumptions with a strong focus on profit maximation, we argue that the risks on family farms need to be considered within their wider context in connections to other risks. It is crucial to take into account the family and its particular historical, social, cultural, political, economic and ecological context. In this sense, we carried out a national survey among farming family members aged 16 and older, on perceptions of risks and chances. The results contribute to a further understanding of farming families actions and strategies for the future that might not always be align with outsiders’ expectations and institutions’ recommendations concerning the farm and/or family life.

Interestingly, many economic factors like market orientation, the importance of food in society and tourism are primarily perceived as chances,  whereas political factors like a loss of independence on the one hand or a dependency from the state are much more perceived as a risk. Clusters of risk perception patterns will be presented as well as the main drivers of the farmer’s perceptions.