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Canadian farm women and their families : restructuring, work and decision making



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This research addresses the broad research question ‘How have Canadian farm families redefined their work roles and relations over the past 20 years to respond to changes affecting the agrifamily household’ by examining the changing work and decision making roles, gender relations and gender identities of Canadian farm women and their families. The main argument presented here and illustrated by the Agrifamily Household Response Model is that Canadian farm families are active agents, responding to restructuring in agriculture, using and modifying the rules and resources of the agrifamily household, their local communities and the wider social, economic and political systems as they make decisions to respond to economic, political, environmental and social change.Data collection involved a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods that were designed to support and inform each other. Initial focus groups were held to assist in research design. These were followed by six workshops across Canada in which farm women were trained as interviewers and the questions were pre-tested. Over a 15 month period in 2002 and 2003, four separate questionnaires and time diaries were completed by up to 479 Canadian farm women, men and youth. The findings were then discussed with the farm women interviewers in four workshops held in various locations across Canada. The results of this research suggest that during the past 20 years, farm women and their families have responded to increased opportunities and pressures by expanding their work roles both on and off the farm. Farm women and men have chosen a variety of work roles in response to restructuring. These changing work roles signal gradually changing gender identities and gender relationships on the farm. The work role choices of farm women in particular are shown to have a significant impact on the resulting gender relations in the family as women, men and youth redefine and negotiate their work roles in response to structural change. Women are important role models for their children as they learn how to farm and this is especially important for female youth.Decision making on farms has traditionally been divided on the basis of gender, however, farm women’s decision-making roles are expanding to reflect recognition of their contributions to the agrifamily household through labour and capital. Broadening roles and changing gender relations and identities in the agrifamily household have affected decision making for men as well. The research indicates there are many participants in major agrifamily household decisions and many roles that are played in the process of decision making. Nevertheless, female youth play a lesser role than any other household members having potentially repercussions for the future role of women in farming. It is evident that Canadian farm women play significant roles in providing labour, capital and decision making to Canadian agriculture. However, these contributions have yet to be acknowledged at the macro level of agricultural organizations and government policy consultations.



Farmers, Farm Families, Farm Youth, Agriculture



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)







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