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From ‘As Good as Gold’ to ‘Gold Diggers’: Farming Women and the Survival of British Family Farming

Blackwell / European Society for Rural Sociology
Publication Date
  • Hq The Family. Marriage. Woman
  • G Geography (General)
  • S Agriculture (General)
  • Gf Human Ecology. Anthropogeography
  • Hm Sociology
  • Agricultural Science


The survival of family farming in British agriculture has long been a topic of interest for rural researchers and is undergoing something of a current renewal of interest. However, insights from feminist approaches remain underutilised despite the crucial role farming women continue to play in family farming. This article addresses the unity of farm, family and business by interpreting it as a patriarchal way of life. An ethnographically informed repeated life history methodology is employed to study in detail the family members of seven farms in rural mid-Wales. Findings show that the recent survival of the family farms investigated has been heavily dependent upon compliance with a patriarchal ideology that demands that women be ‘as good as gold’. However, it is discovered that a new view of women is emerging in the world of British family farming, that of ‘gold digger’. Women entering relationships with farming men are increasingly being considered a threat to farm survival by virtue of their entitlements if the relationship breaks down. The necessity to study the intricacies of personal relationships in family farming has important implications for most future research into this form of agricultural business arrangement.

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