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Report2021Open access

A review of recent social science literature on Swedish farming: A research agenda for understanding current and future challenges

Kuns, Brian


This report contains a review of recent social science research on the subject of Swedish farming, with the aim to highlight the challenges that farmers are facing, raise and discuss research gaps, and more generally to emphasize the importance of the non-economic social sciences on this important topic. Sustainability, policy and gender are among the most frequent keywords in the current research, with sustainability and policy often being discussed together, while studies with gender as a keyword mostly deal with important questions of equality in the farming sector. Other important themes in the recent research are agrarian change, farm labor, and animal welfare. The recent research shows considerable contestation around agricultural sustainability. On the one hand, some farms and other actors are trying to achieve a “genuine” sustainability with some successes, at the same time that the recent research shows the dilemmas and problems such efforts face. Meanwhile, numerous studies show that many farmers are skeptical of current policies promoting agricultural sustainability, a skepticism that is in part grounded in the tough economic conditions that farmers face. Studies focusing on gender chart an increase in the number of female farmers, which, as these studies show, is occurring under quite unequal conditions. This report also shows how a gender focus opens up for fundamental questions about the purpose of farming and the categories we use to understand farm change. The report also notes a gap in research on migrant labor in Swedish farming (as opposed to berry-picking). Broadly speaking the recent research shows continuity and change in Sweden’s agrarian structure. However, a number of studies highlight emerging change and diversity-with respect to demographics, gender, production orientation, farmer identities-that portend new avenues of differentiation for the future. Finally, the report notes how sustainability in the recent research is mostly conceived as environmental sustainability, and this report argues that a broader definition of sustainability, including equality, gender, and decent work conditions-as promoted by the Sustainable Development Goals-would enrich the study of sustainability in Swedish agriculture.


social science; agriculture; Sweden; sustainability; gender; farm labor; farmer identity; agrarian change

Published in

Urban and rural reports
2021, number: 2021:1eISBN: 978-91-85735-59-4
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
    Agricultural Science

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