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.
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