Family farming is a predominant form of agriculture both in developed and developing countries, with over 500 million productive units in the entire world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAO is promoting 2014 as the international year of family farming. This particular form of agriculture work refers to farms that are managed by family members and are usually small or medium in size and productivity.
For a long time, many imagined farmers and rural people as disconnected from the “modern world.” This way of viewing farming and rurality has at its core the notion that cities, where modernity is engendered, and the countryside, where stagnation prevails, are two spaces that are completely isolated
In the last decades, some institutions started to study this scenario and actually discovered the opposite of this notion. Globalization, renewed markets, and new population flows, among other factors, helped to understand that rural and urban spaces are more connected than what many people thought.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are playing a key role in this scenario. New generations of younger farmers are embracing ICTs, demonstrating that the two spaces can be complementary. Mobile phones, particularly, are providing a great platform to connect them to the “rurbanity,” a new (key) concept to understand hybrid spaces where cities and the countryside are part of the same social reality.
Against this backdrop, this research attempts to better understand how different ICT tools impact family farming, focusing in the role of youth in a complex scenario where social transformations are renewing the means of agriculture and determining the social, economic, and cultural dynamics of these new hybrid spaces.
Preliminary findings point to the different ways in which ICT tools are appropriated into family farming practices. For the first time, farmers have the opportunity to tell their own story through social media and/or websites of their own. Consequently, the narratives of farming are renewed, reshaped, and reimagined.
Young people are critical actors in this process. Through their experiences, we can better understand the dynamics of this transformation in family farming, because their lifestyle and decisions determine farming of the future.
The research (conducted by Matias Centeno) is funded by the National Institute of Agriculture Technology (INTA) of Argentina, and it is being developed in four countries, to obtain a further comparative approach to family farming in different social contexts. In the US, the research was developed with the support of the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA).