On-Farm Activities have a long tradition in Austrian agriculture and women are playing a major role in initiating and developing new income activities on farm households. The conditions for agricultural production and diversification are very different throughout Europe and in a few countries, e.g. the Netherlands, pluriacitvity is just at the starting point. Rianne Boenink, student of rural sociology at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, is interested in the analysis of the process of developing and implementing of such on-farm activities which were initiated by farm women in Austria.
From September to December 2002 I have fulfilled an internship at the Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen (BABF) in Vienna. This publication is the result of this practice and my work there. For me it was interesting and informative to spend a part of my study in a foreign country. I have chosen to do my practice in Austria, because I wanted to stay in Europe and to improve the German language. It is also the case I know Germany better than Austria. People from my home university gave me some contact addresses and after communicating with Theresia Oedl-Wieser from BABF the decision for the internship at Vienna was taken. My motivation to fulfil this internship was to get more insight in sociology as a profession in practice. Until now my study was primarily theoretic and it was time for me to experience the ‘rural sociology world’ in reality. I had to find out whether this world is the place I want to find my future profession in.
I am interested in the countryside in general. That has probably to do with the fact I was raised at the Dutch countryside. In this time of insecurity for the agricultural sector, terms as rural development and pluriactivity are getting more common. The agrarian production stays important but at an increasing pace farms are forced to search for a surplus value. One possibility is the starting of on-farm activities. Examples of the latter are cheese making, agro-tourism, direct marketing of own (processed) agrarian products, etc. I have chosen this subject because I was very curious how this wide-spread activity in Austria looks like. In the Netherlands so-called on-farm activities aren’t very common yet. Things are changing though and the process of diversification at Dutch farms is still developing, in contrast to Austria which has a long tradition of such on-farm activities besides farming.
In addition, I had read that in Austria there are mainly women who start such activities. From the literature it also became clear that there is still a traditional and in some cases a patriarchal way of living to be found at the countryside. For these reasons I have chosen to combine the subjects ‘on-farm activities’ and ‘gender aspects’ into my main subject: The Role of Austrian Farm Women in On-Farm Activities. The purpose of the research work was to get more insight into the reasons why Austrian farm women are setting up an on-farm activity and what kind of social problems they have experienced while setting up such an acitivity. Therefore it was necessary to examine the reactions of the family and the wider social environment and to find out what kind of changes took place inside the household once such initiatives have been started.
My general research questions were the following:
- Why are farm women engaging in an on-farm activity?
- What were the reactions of the family and the social environment to the (new) on-farm activity?
- Which were the changes for farm women because of the on-farm activity?
My findings are summarised in this report, which consists of a theoretical and an empirical part. For me this was a very interesting time and study work, and I do hope I may give you as a reader a short glimpse of the life of Austrian ‘active’ farm women.