Many sociologists and food policy activists are preoccupied with the fate of the family farm. In this paper we ask whether tacit normative beliefs among scholars regarding the family farm as an imagined site of resistance to industrialization and its ills holds up to empirical scrutiny? Using a grounded theoretical approach, we build an understanding of the relationship structures defining the contemporary family farm in its wider assemblages and food system relations. We engage 36 self-identified family farmers in Canada in qualitative interviews from which we constitute a definition of the contemporary family farm and its role in food politics. Our interviews reveal incredible variation in labour arrangements, production styles and strategies as well non-uniform commitments to sustainability among farmers. The interviews also, perhaps most crucially, reveal some of our participants trading upon normative conceptions of “family farm” and mobilizing what we claim is a “floating signifier” (Laclau, 1989) for a variety of food system interests, some arguably unsustainable.

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Journal of Rural Studies
Department of Political Science

Bronson, K. (Kelly), Knezevic, I, & Clément, C. (2019). The Canadian family farm, in literature and in practice. Journal of Rural Studies. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2019.01.003