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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Evidence of resilience capacity in farmers’ narratives: Accounts of robustness, adaptability and transformability across five different European farming systems

Nicholas-Davies, Phillipa; Fowler, Susan; Midmore, Peter; Coopmans, Isabeau; Draganova, Mariana; Petitt, Andrea; Senni, Saverio


Understanding how farmers perceive and manage critical decision points in response to challenges and opportunities can help to develop effective support for resilient European farming systems. Individual narratives of farm stories provide insight into important management changes over time and the context in which they were made. We analyse 46 personal narratives from family farms across a range of farming systems in five European countries and use comparative thematic analysis to identify these change drivers and responses to them. Pressures within the family and the farming business (caused by health problems or intergenerational transition) were more important to narrators than external drivers such as extreme weather events and price fluctuations. The latter, perceived as outside the control of the farmer, were regarded as background noise requiring no significant business changes. While different resilience responses (robustness, adaptation, and transformation) were revealed, these categories were fluid depending on individual capacities, farm resources and the overall setting. Farms could appear robust but, over time, small changes in management could cumulate to adapt or even transform the management and scope of the business. Policy-related conclusions include a need for more flexible, tailored farm support and more coherent long-term strategies to manage intergenerational transition on farms.


Farm resilience; Biographical narratives; Social-ecological systems; Adaptation; Transformation

Published in

Journal of Rural Studies
2021, volume: 88, pages: 388-399

Authors' information

Nicholas-Davies, Phillipa
Aberystwyth University
Fowler, Susan
Aberystwyth University
Midmore, Peter
Aberystwyth University
Coopmans, Isabeau
University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
Draganova, Mariana
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Petitt, Andrea
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Senni, Saverio
University of Tuscia

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

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