Conversion of Family Farms and Resilience in Southland, New Zealand



Published Jan 4, 2014
Jérémie Forney Paul V. Stock


The well-known deregulation of New Zealand agriculture prompted the growth of dairy farming, particularly in the region of Southland. The formation of the giant cooperative Fonterra only exacerbated the conversion of sheep farms into dairy farms that challenged both farmers’ and the region’s traditional identity as a sheep country. Interviews with converted farmers show that farming families convert to dairy primarily in an attempt to preserve what is important for them: farm succession and a professional identity. At the community level, conversions to dairy prompted economic revival and a reversal of population loss. This article engages the literature on resilience and rural communities to explore Southland’s adaptation to new economic and farming realities while exploring potential shocks in the future around financialization and environmental well-being.

How to Cite

Forney, J. and Stock, P. V. (2014) “Conversion of Family Farms and Resilience in Southland, New Zealand”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 21(1), pp. 7–29. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v21i1.152.
Abstract 716 | PDF Downloads 487


Allison, H.E. and Hobbs, R.J. (2004) Resilience, adaptive capacity, and the “lock-in trap” of the Western Australian agricultural region, Ecology and Society, 9(1), art. 3.
Barnett, J. and Pauling, J. (2005) The environmental effects of New Zealand’s free-market reforms, Environment, Development and Sustainability, 7(2), pp. 271–289.
Bell, D. (2006) Variations on the rural idyll, in: P. Cloke, T. Mar sde n and P. Mooney (eds) Handbook of Rural Studies. London: Sage Publications, pp. 149–160.
Bennett, A. (2012) Crafar farm bid decision close, New Zealand Herald, 20 January, published online .
Blackett, P. and Le Her on, R. (2008) Maintaining the ‘clean green’ image: governance of on-farm environmental practices in the New Zealand dairy industry, in: C. Stringer and R. Le Her on (eds) Agri-food Commodity Chains and the Globalising Networks. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 75–87.
Blunde n, G., Mora n, W. and Brad ly, A. (1997) ‘Archaic’ relations of production in modern agricultural systems: the example of sharemilking in New Zealand, Environment and Planning A, 29(10), pp. 1759–1776.
Brandth, B. (2002) Gender identity in European family farming: a literature review, Sociologia Ruralis, 42(3), pp. 181–200.
Burton, R.J.F. (2004) Seeing through the ‘good farmer’s’ eyes: toward developing an understanding of the social symbolic value of ‘productivist’ behaviour, Sociologia Ruralis, 44(2), pp. 195–215.
Burton, R.J.F. and Walford , N. (2005) Multiple succession and land division on family farms in the South East of England: a counterbalance to agricultural concentration?, Journal of Rural Studies, 21, pp. 335–347.
Burton, R.J.F. and Wilson, G.A. (2012) The rejuvenation of productivist agriculture: the case for ‘cooperative neo-productivism’, in: R. Almås and H. Camp bell (eds) Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, pp. 51-72.
Buttel, F.H., Lar son, O.F. and Gillespie, G.W.J. (1990) The Sociology of Agriculture. New York: Greenwood Press.
Camp bell, H. (1994) Regulation and Crisis in New Zealand Agriculture: The Case of Ashburton County. PhD Thesis, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga.
Camp bell, H. and LawreAWREnce , G. (2003) Assessing the neo-liberal experiment in Antipodean agriculture, in: R. Almås and G. LawreAWREnce (eds) Globalization, Localization and Sustainable Livelihoods. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 89–102
Camp bell, H., Bell, M.M. and Finney, M. (eds) (2006) Country Boys: Masculinity and Rural Life. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Cloke, P. (1996) Looking through European eyes? A re-evaluation of agricultural deregulation in New-Zealand, Sociologia Ruralis, 36(3), pp. 307–330.
DairyNZ (2010) DairyNZ Economic Survey 2008–09. Hamilton: DairyNZ.
Evans, N., Morr is, C. and Winter , M. (2002) Conceptualizing agriculture: a critique of post-productivism as the new orthodoxy, Progress in Human Geography, 26(3), pp. 313–332.
Falk, I. and KilpaPAtrick, S. (2000) What is social capital? A study of interaction in a rural community, Sociologia Ruralis, 40(1), pp. 87–110.
Folke, C., Carpe nter , S.R., Walker , B., Scheffer , M., Chap in, T. and Rockström, J. (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability, Ecology and Society, 15(4), art. 20.
Gray, S. and Le Her on, R. (2010) Globalising New Zealand: Fonterra Co-operative Group, and shaping the future, New Zealand Geographer, 66, pp. 1–13.
Hagger ty, J., Camp bell, H. and Morr is, C. (2009) Keeping the stress off the sheep? Agricultural intensification, neoliberalism, and ‘good’ farming in New Zealand, Geoforum, 40, pp. 767–777.
Hatch , E. (1992) Respectable Lives: Social Standing in Rural New Zealand. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Horlings, L.G. and Mar sde n, T.K. (2011) Towards the real green revolution? Exploring the conceptual dimensions of a new ecological modernisation of agriculture that could ‘feed the world’, Global Environmental Change, 21(2), pp. 441–452.
Institut de l’Élevage (2010a) Les filières viande bovine et ovine en Nouvelle-Zélande. Une affaire familial entre technicité et manqué de rentabilité, Dossier Économie de l’Élevage 405. Paris: Insitut de l’Élevage.
Institut de l’Élevage (2010b) La filière laitière en Nouvelle Zélande : une furieuse volonté de croissance contrariée par l’environnement, Dossier Économie de l’Élevage 404. Paris: Insitut de l’Élevage.
Inwood, S.M. and Sharp , J.S. (2012) Farm persistence and adaptation at the rural-urban interface: succession and farm adjustment, Journal of Rural Studies, 28, pp. 107–117.
Jay, M. (2007) The political economy of a productivist agriculture: New Zealand dairy discourses, Food Policy, 32, pp. 266–279.
Johnsen, S. (1999) Agricultural restructuring and response: inter-relationships between farm adjustement strategies in Waihemo, 1984–1997, New Zealand Geographer, 55(1), pp. 25–34.
Johnsen, S. (2001) Dynamic Entities in an Era of Agricultural Change: Redefining the Family Farm and Rural Community, Waihemo 1984–1997. Ph.D. thesis, University of Otago, Dunedin.
Johnsen, S. (2003) Contingency revealed: New Zealand farmers’ experiences of agricultural restructuring, Sociologia Ruralis, 43(2), pp. 128–153.
Johnsen, S. (2004) The redefinition of family farming: agricultural restructuring and farm adjustment in Waihemo, New Zealand, Journal of Rural Studies, 20(4), pp. 419–432.
Larner , W. (2000) Neo-liberalism: policy, ideology, governmentality, Studies in Political Economy, 63, pp. 5–25.
Lawrence, G. and Camp bell, H. (2014) Neoliberalism in the Antipodes: understanding the influence and limits of the neoliberal political project, in: S.A. Wolf and A. Bonnano (eds) The Neoliberal Regime in the Agri-food Sector: Crisis, Resilience and Restructuring. Abingdon: Earthscan.
LeHer on, R. (1993) Globalized Agriculture: Political Choice. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
LeHer on, R. (2011) Market-Making and livelihood challenges in contemporary New Zealand’s dairy and sheep pastoral economies, in: J. Ger tel and R. Le Her on (eds) Economic Spaces of Pastoral Production and Commodity Systems: Markets and Livelihoods. Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 275–297.
Liep ins, R. (2000) Exploring rurality through ‘community’: discourses, practices and spaces shaping Australian and New Zealand rural ‘communities’, Journal of Rural Studies, 16, pp. 325–341.
Liep ins, R. and Brad shawHAW, B. (1999) Neo-liberal agricultural discourses in New Zealand: economy, culture and politics linked, Sociologia Ruralis, 39(4), pp. 563–582.
Lowe , P. (2010) Enacting rural sociology: or what are the creativity claims of the engaged sciences?, Sociologia Ruralis, 50(4), pp. 311–330.
Lowe , P. and Ward , N. (1997) Field-level bureaucrats and the making of new moral discourses in agri-environmental controversies, in: D. Goodma n and M.J. Watts (eds) Globalising Food: Agrarian Questions and Global Restructuring. London: Routeledge, pp. 256–272.
Mac Leod, C.J. and Moller , H. (2006) Intensification and diversification of New Zealand agriculture since 1960: an evaluation of current indicators of land use change, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 115(1–4), pp. 201–218.
MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fore stry) (2009a) Pastoral Monitoring: Southland Dairy. Wellington: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fore stry) (2009b) Pastoral Monitoring: Southland/South Otago Intensive Sheep and Beef. Wellington: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Mar sde n, T. (1984) Capitalist farming and the farm family: a case study, Sociology, 18(2), pp. 205–223.
McCrostie Little, H. and Taylor, N. (1998) Issues of New Zealand Farm Succession: A Study of the Intergenerational Transfer of the Farm Business Summary of findings and policy implications. Wellington: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
McManus, P., Walmsley, J., Argent, N., Baum, S., Bourke, L., Mar tin, J., Pritchard , B. and Sore nsen, T. (2012) Rural community and rural resilience: what is important to farmers in keeping their country towns alive?, Journal of Rural Studies, 28(1), pp. 20–29.
McMichae l, P. (2011) Biofuels and the financialization of the global food system, in: C. Rosin, P. Stock and H. Camp bell (eds) Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and The Future of Agriculture. London: Earthscan, pp. 60–82.
Peoples, S. (2010) Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, Otago Daily Times, 15 November 2010, published online .
Pritchard , B., Burch , D. and LawreAWREnce , G. (2007) Neither ‘family’ nor ‘corporate’ farming: Australian tomato growers as farm family entrepreneurs, Journal of Rural Studies, 23, pp. 75–87.
Rosin, C. (2013) Food security and the justification of productivism in New Zealand, Journal of Rural Studies, 29(1), pp. 50–58.
Smith, W. and Montgomer y, H. (2003) Revolution or evolution? New Zealand agriculture since 1984, GeoJournal, 59, pp. 107–118.
Statistics-New Zea land (1997) People and Places: New Zealand Now. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand-Te Tari Tatau.
Stock, P.V. (2007) ‘Good farmers’ as reflexive producers: an examination of family organic farmers in the US Midwest, Sociologia Ruralis, 47(2), pp. 83–102.
Stock, P. and Peoples, S. (2012) Commodity competition: divergent trajectories in New Zealand pastoral farming, in: R. Almås and H. Camp bell (eds) Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, pp. 263–284.
Suther land, L.-A. and Burton, R.J.F. (2011) Good farmers, good neighbours? the role of cultural capital in social capital development in a Scottish farming community, Sociologia Ruralis, 51(3), pp. 238–255.
Tipp les, R. (2011) Seeking solutions to precarious working in the growth of New Zealand dairy farming: a research agenda, in: M. Sar gea nt and M. Giovannone (eds) Vulnerable Workers: Health, Safety, and Well-being. Farnham: Gower Publishing, pp. 219–242.
Walker , B., Holling, C.S., Carpe nter , S.R. and Kinzig, A.P. (2004) Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems, Ecology and Society, 9(2), art. 5.
Ward , N. and Lowe , P. (1994) Shifting values in agriculture: the farm family and pollution regulation, Journal of Rural Studies, 10(2), pp. 173–184.
Ward , N., Jac kson, P., Russell, P. and Wilkinson, K. (2008) Productivism, post-productivism and European agricultural reform: the case of sugar, Sociologia Ruralis, 48(2), pp. 118–132.
Wilkinson, K.P. (1970) The community as a social field, Social Forces, 48(3), pp. 311–322.
Wilkinson, K.P. (1991) The Community in Rural America. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Wilson, O.J. (1994) ‘They changed the rules’: farm family responses to agricultural deregulation in Southland, New Zeland, New Zealand Geographer, 50(1), pp. 3–13.
Wilson, O.J. (1995) Rural restructuring and agriculture. rural economy linkages: a New Zealand study, Journal of Rural Studies, 11(4), pp. 417–431.
Wilson, G. (2010) Multifunctional ‘quality’ and rural community resilience, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 35(3), pp. 364–381.
Wilson, G.A. (2012) Community resilience, globalization, and transitional pathways of decision-making, Geoforum, 43(6), pp. 1218–1231.
Wilson, G.A. (2013) Community resilience, policy corridors and the policy challenge, Land Use Policy, 31, pp. 298–310.