Topic: Working from the heart – Care Farming in a Gender Perspective
Keywords: care farming, gender, Sweden
Sweden has experienced an agrarian transformation where the role of agriculture is diminishing in terms of employment, GDP and land coverage, since the post-war period. At the same time the productivity and production performance of the sector is improving. The current emerging agricultural landscape includes the development of large scale, work-extensive, specialised farms, integrated into a global trade of food, but also various movements for sustainable food production with strong attachments to place. In addition, farmers diversify through developing services based on various resources of the farm, for example ‘green care’.
Green care can be defined as: “the utilisation of agricultural farms – the animals, the plants, the garden, the forest, and the landscape – as a base for promoting human mental and physical health, as well as quality of life, for a variety of client groups” (Dessein and Bock, 2010:12). The literature on green care has focused on the range of benefits for various groups of clients (see: Hassink, et al., 2010; Sempik et al., 2010; Steigen, et al. 2015). Fewer studies have investigated green care with a focus on the ‘doers’ – for example the farmers and farm families. Those that do view green care as part of changing farming; as multi-functionality (Hassink, et al., 2007), as an entrepreneurial strategy (Hassink et al., 2016), but also as ‘connective agriculture’ (Leck et al., 2014), whereas ‘humane’ jobs for humans and other animals are emerging (cf. Coulter, 2016). However, research has not paid heed to how gender influence the green care farms and care-givers.
In this paper we analyze green care as part of agrarian transformations. Since the transformations are inextricably bound up in social and gendered structures and processes, it is crucial to understand how they affect women and men’s engagement, motives, opportunities and outcomes in relation to green care. Hence, we study green care from a gender perspective, with a focus on the emergence and development of new relations and identities – and the use of bodily work. We also discuss how care-givers in green care, in different ways, seek to resist the socio-political ‘rationality’ they must work within, being part of welfare provisioning. Empirically, the paper builds on 21 in-depth interviews, and participatory observations, on 12 green care farms in Sweden.