P-9/04 Political rhetoric, conception of ‘the farmer,’ and implications for recruitment

Revised version of paper presented at the XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, July 25 – 30. What is a farmer and how do farmers come into existence? These have turned out to be crucial questions in a study of recruitment to Norwegian farming. The reason is simple: The view of what constitutes farming, and hence ‘the farmer’, is not uniform and changes over time. A farmer is a person, but obviously more than that. We propose that connections, to persons and things, are essential. Without these it would be impossible to farm and hence be a farmer. In other words, a farmer is a relational phenomenon. As a consequence recruitment to agriculture should be viewed as a project of developing (certain) connections between persons and things. The interesting question then becomes who these persons and things are and what connections are important. The empirical basis is a description of ‘farmer connections’ in Norwegian agricultural policy documents at three periods  in the 1970s, in the 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium. Although there is some stability, we note that there are important changes in ‘rhetorical connections’ over time; in other words, the conceptualisation of the farmer is undergoing change. In different ways agricultural policy interacts with agricultural practice. Hence, noting shifting political conceptualisations of the farmer should make us think more carefully what connections constitute new farmers  that is, recruitment.

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