‘Men inherit farms, women do not’

The favourite son is no longer a tradition in Irish farming, but there are still issues around inheritance with Irish farms, and more often than not sons inherit the family farm, according to Professor Sally Shorthall.

She was speaking at the Teagasc conference ‘Family Farming In Ireland: Continuity and Change’, on the changing role of the farm household. Prof Shorthall highlighted that the traditional western attitude to inheritance is that men inherit farms and women do not.

She said that it shows the weight of the paternal line in Ireland.

“In Norway, which is very committed to social equality, they introduced a law that made the eldest child the legal heir to the farm and about 17% of farms are owned by women in Norway. Social change happens slowly.” In Ireland, just 4% of farms are jointly owned.

She said that while the labour market segregation of entry to farming remains intact with men continuing to farm, women on family farms are now more likely to be active in the labour market outside the family farm.

“They are likely to provide ‘hidden’ labour.” However, she said men are very much aware that their wives are supporting unviable farms in many cases.

“It’s remarkable how the family farm endures. While gender roles have changes, they continue to work in unison to ensure the survival of the family farm.”

She also said that people sometimes worry now that passing on the farm is passing on something that’s worrisome.

“A poisoned chalice is mentioned by many,” she said by people who are stressed about how to keep a farm going.

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