Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Presentation of Personal Control in the Rhetoric of Farm Families Engaged in Business Diversification in Finland

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Presentation of Personal Control in the Rhetoric of Farm Families Engaged in Business Diversification in Finland

Article excerpt


Small-scale family farming has been under considerable pressures in Western countries during the last decades (Chaplin et al., 2004; Djurfelt and Gooch, 2002; Johnsen, 2003; Mascarenhas, 2001; Melberg, 2003; Welsh, 1997). Policy reforms including reduced public funding, as well as industrialisation and globalisation of the agricultural economy, have levelled the demand of more productivity and efficiency at farmers. Farm families have been struggling to survive this "farm crisis". Farm numbers have dropped while average farm size has increased. Often repeated advice to the farmers have been, for example: "Take a professional attitude!"; "More market orientation!"; "Be entrepreneurial!"

The questions of whether farmers are acting in an entrepreneurial way, or if there exists potential for this amongst farm families, have been of interest to many researchers. These questions have been presented, for example, from the perspectives of personality, attitudes, values, and management style (Carter, 1998,2001; Sachs, 1973; Willock et al., 1999).Awidely known distinction between entrepreneur and yeoman types of farmers proposes that some have an entrepreneurial orientation, while others value most of all the traditional way of life associated with family farming (Salamon, 1992). According to some researchers, yeoman and entrepreneur are not distinct types but more like characteristics occurring in combinations (Austin et al., 1996). Suggested from the viewpoint of occupational identity is that the identities of manager and entrepreneur have become more common amongst farmers (Bryant, 1999; compare Benito and Conzales, 2001). In all, while some researchers emphasise that there does exist entrepreneurial behaviour and potential amongst farmers (Carter, 1998, 2001; Carter and Rosa, 1998), some point out the lack of entrepreneurial skills (McElwee, 2004) or attitudes (Willock et al., 1999).

Different meanings can be attached to entrepreneurship. For example, when juxtaposed with the social values of the yeoman ethos, the economic aims and ambitions of maximising business success will be emphasised in the entrepreneurship orientation (Salomon, 1992). On the other hand, if entrepreneurial behaviour is juxtaposed with the neo-classical idea of rational calculation-following Schumpeter's (2000/1911) famous theory-innovativeness in business behaviour will be emphasised. Further, if one wants to emphasise the values of personal autonomy and control in one's work (aspects that have also been prominent in the literature on entrepreneurship; Hussin, 1997; Koh, 1996; Oughton et al., 2003), one will be referring to the values that are not at all strange to the traditions of family farming (Johnsen, 2003). Taken these various viewpoints, it seems essential to ask, What would it actually mean for a farmer to become entrepreneurial and market oriented nowadays? And further, What are the concrete strategic alternatives that are available for a farmer who wishes to be entrepreneurial?

There seems to be two basic strategies through which the entrepreneurial behaviour can be realised in the context of farming. One alternative is to intensify the primary production by increasing the size of the farm or the production unit. This implies specialising into a certain line of production. The other alternative is to diversify the business on the farm.1 One can deepen the agricultural activity by engaging in processing or retailing of the farm products, or one can widen the activity by some other business than conventional agricultural production (Ploeg et al., 2002)-for example tourism, machine contracting, transportation services, wood processing, metal industry, or energy production.

The intensification of conventional production by enlargement of the farm might well be interpreted as entrepreneurial behaviour. It demands investments, which implies risk-taking and growth-orientation, both of which are attributes that are typically associated with entrepreneurship. …

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