Barriers to alternative production practices among grain and oilseed farmers in Alberta: How changing farmland tenure and neoliberal imaginaries and structural shifts impede transformation

Authors: Katherine Aske*,
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Land Use, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Alberta; qualitative research; farmland tenure; tenant farming; financialization; neoliberalism; grain and oilseed farming
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The climate crisis and the farm income crisis are wreaking havoc on rural landscapes across the prairies. These crises are not only concurrent: they are closely tied in that they share root causes, as well as solutions. Both demand radical transformation, away from the current large-scale, export-oriented, energy-, capital-, and emissions-intensive production system toward one that is life-sustaining. Decades of neoliberal structural changes and hegemonic neoliberal ideology at the community level shape what alternatives farmers are able to conceive of, their conceptualizations of their own struggle, as well as their ability to see one another as collaborators as opposed to competitors. Even more fundamentally, the question of who owns and has access to farmland -- and what they are able to do with it depending on the conditions of ownership and access -- shapes the potential for and/or limitations facing a move toward alternative production systems. This paper will draw on 40 interviews with grain and oilseed farmers and Municipal District/county staff across Alberta in order to analyze how changing farmland tenure dynamics -- such as the involvement of investor actors, rising land prices, and increasing rates of tenant farming -- exist alongside neoliberal community dynamics to impede the transformative change the climate crisis and farm income crisis demand. I will conclude with a consideration of the resistance currents that might bring us hope.

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