Scottish Farm resilience: robustness, adaptation and transformation of Scottish farms 1989 to 2020.

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned report

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Given changes in the external environment, there has been much concern over the resilience of farming within Scotland. Resilience is a dynamic concept and covers a number of areas, namely: i) how robust a farm is to the changes in the external environment. This includes how they both are affected by a drop in incomes but also the rate at which they may recover from a drop in incomes, ii) adaptation to the external environment, this covers how much a farm may change its key approaches such as intensifying or extensifying, or specialising or diversifying its on-farm activities, and iii) transformation in response to the external environment, which covers the way in which a farm changes from its original purpose, such as converting to organic or increasing its off-farm diversification.

We find that most farms score highly on their robustness scale, which reflects a high resistance to change. However, around 20 to 25% of farms suffer shocks, in terms of a 30% drop in incomes from one year to the next. Moreover, the farms scored lower on adaptation, which shows that less farms were adapting to the external environment, in terms of changing their practices. Finally very few farms had changed their off-farm income, which is used as an indicator of transformation here. Generally those farms with more diversity of on-farm activities tend to score better than those with more specialised enterprises. Mixed farms tend to have the highest levels of robustness, whereas General Cropping farms had higher levels of adaptation. However, there is a considerable range of performance within farming types.

Under the potential for new reform of Scottish agricultural policy, accommodating resilience should be key to promoting sustainable resource use. Understanding how our farms have changed to external environments in past will give some direction towards supporting farms to enable change but also buffeting them for shocks and disturbances within the external economic environment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPrint publication - 22 Mar 2022


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