Resilience of farming systems during periods of hardship
The ability of farm businesses to be sustainable has become increasingly difficult with pressures rising from the need to expand or change landuse in order to remain viable; social values, beliefs and trends; and environmental change with the consequent regulation. To remain resilient to these stresses and changes farmers must develop effective management responses and strategies. This paper investigates these management techniques identifying some solutions considered and adopted by New Zealand sheep and beef farmers. Using two, farm level surveys conducted by Fairweather in 1986 and ARGOS in 2010, some aspects of resilient farming systems are identified. Due to the different time periods of these two surveys and the different global markets and systems effecting localised farming systems there were notable differences in management responses and strategies. The results show that despite apparent hardship farmers currently seemed more willing to take risks, with many more borrowing to invest in on farm developments with the goal of accessing new areas of production and markets. This was seen with many farmers adapting to utilise the current strength of diary returns to supplement the reduced returns being received for sheep and beef products. This willingness to borrow was very different to the mentality shown by farmers in 1987 with then very few farmers borrowing, with refinancing existing debt being the main reason for taking loans. Other areas in which farmers were currently appearing to be taking risks were through innovation, trying new techniques, new management methods, developing niche products, diversification and looking to access new markets. The main similarity between time periods was the greatest response to economic changes being the adoption of a low input policy. This result was quite significant, as farmers using conventional management systems, which comprised the majority of the 1986 survey, are generally believed to resort to other strategies or responses. The ARGOS sample on the other hand is biased towards farmers on low input strategies. Of the farms surveyed there were two main management strategies adopted in times of hardship or economic stress. One was sticking with familiar, proven methods that have been developed over time. The other was one that constantly evolves, remaining flexible and adaptive through employing new practices and incorporating products into their business when necessary or seen as optimal. Which of these was most resilient was as dependent on the farmer as it was the management strategy they implemented. It was felt that in the present climate the majority of existing farms had a reasonable degree of resilience as they had survived in the current irregular global environment.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsfarming systems; resilience; farm sustainability; economic hardship; agricultural systems; surveys
Fields of Research0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
TypeReport (Commissioned Report)
- ARGOS publications 
Copyright © The Authors.