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Ageing on Farm Research Summary

Ageing-on-Farm: an observational study exploring non-familial farm succession planning in Australia 

May 2023 

What was the study about? 

The usual succession model for a family farm is to bequeath the farm to a child (or children). In this model, older and younger generations of farmers often farm together for many years. That is, older farmers remain on the farm and age-on-farm. But what happens if the older farmer does not have children to bequeath the farm to; perhaps the children are uninterested in or unwilling to farm? Can the farmer still plan to age-on-farm? A study conducted by researchers from La Trobe University’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, in partnership with social enterprise, Cultivate Farms, aimed to find out about how Australian older farmers made farm succession plans and what they thought about the concept of ageing-on-farm. 

What was the study design? 

In this observational study, Australian farm owners aged 50 years or older were invited to complete two interviews with a researcher. In the first interview, the older farmers talked about their farm and their plans for farm succession. They were given a copy of The Cultivate Farms Ageing-on-Farm Guide to consider and review and were interviewed a second time 6 weeks’ later. In the second interview, the older farmers provided feedback about the Guide and any updates or changes to their farm succession plan. We analysed the interview data using the realist evaluation framework to illustrate the who, what, when, and how of ageing-on-farm. 

Who took part in the study? 

Ageing on Farm

What did participants think about ageing-on-farm? 

How did participants plan to age-on-farm?  

Most participants wanted to age-on-farm, but non-familial farm succession planning was challenging and complex. Most participants were ageing-on-farm and making decisions in stages while they waited to see what happened next. The farmers used strategies to age-on-farm including: 

  • Downsizing the farm  
  • Making modifications to the farm environment, farming equipment, and farming practices to mitigate the effects of age- or health-related functional decline 
  • Leveraging off-farm investments and income to create financial security 
  • Accepting unanticipated opportunity (e.g., selling part of the farm to neighbours) 
  • Planning to implement strategies suggested in the Cultivate Farms’ Ageing-on-farm Guide, such as leasing, and share farming 

What actions are recommended as a result of this study? 

  • Present the study findings to farmers 
  • Make suggested changes to The Cultivate Farms’ Ageing-on-Farm Guide 
  • Develop new models for ageing-on-farm
  • Develop resources to support farmers to complete individualised succession plans 

Want more information? 

John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research:   

Cultivate Farms:  

The study was funded by the Violet Vines Marshman Centre for Rural Health Research, La Trobe University. In-kind support was provided by John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, La Trobe University and Cultivate Farms.