An expert in farm succession has scooped a prestigious national award for his research into intergenerational farm transfer.

Dr Shane Conway, a postdoctoral researcher in the discipline of geography’s rural studies unit at NUI Galway, was recently announced as the winner of the Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI) Doctoral Research Award 2020.

Conway was presented with the award for his PhD research, which explored the human dynamics affecting intergenerational farm transfer in later life.

This prestigious national award was open to any graduate of a higher education institute on the Island of Ireland who had successfully defended their PhD degree since January 2016.

Unique insight

Commenting on the award, Conway said: “None of this would have been possible without all the farmers who generously took time out from their busy schedules to provide inestimable data and information for this research.

“Their candour and willingness to open up and share their stories and experiences provided me with a unique insight into the world as farmers perceive it.”

Conway’s research shows that the majority of farmers opt to maintain normal day-to-day activity and behaviour in later life, with these findings helping to inform more ‘farmer-sensitive’ generational renewal in agriculture policy.

Challenges to transfer

The research revealed the reasons why older farmers fail to plan effectively for the future, such as the potential loss of identity, status and power that may occur as a result of engaging in the process.

Conway found that the so-called ‘soft issues’ are the factors that distort and dominate the older generation’s decisions on the future trajectory of the farm.

Such issues have resulted in intractable challenges for farm succession and retirement policy over the past 50 years and are the issues that future generational renewal in agriculture strategies and interventions must take into account.

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