'I'm not going to be able to leave'; The impact of belonging to the Irish farming community on university students' life experiences and transitions to adulthood
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Despite extensive research into family farming culture little attention has been paid to young people raised in this community who do not become full-time farmers. This thesis explores the childhood experiences of university students who grew up in Irish farming families and its impact on their movement into adulthood. It concentrates on their relationship with the farm and the local, rural and farming communities this is situated within. This study focuses on the impact belonging to these institutions has had and continues to have on the lives and choices of farm youth as they build a life potentially leading away from their cultural and familial background. It examines the processes underpinning their transition to adulthood and the role of structural boundaries such as parental strategies, cultural norms and gendered frameworks in the direction of their life, their identity and affiliations. The concept of belonging is unpacked and the nuances, norms and attitudes grounding this that attach and detach this group from the farm and their communities are highlighted. Attitudes to the prospect of being given the farm are outlined as is the role played by those who will not be given the farm in the preservation of the farm into the next generation. The findings of this qualitative study are based on a series of thirty semi-structured interviews carried out with a cohort evenly divided between male and female participants aged between 18 and 33 who attend university. It was conducted by a researcher who is an insider in this community. The research argues that how young people belong to the farm and the community and the degree to which they are pushed and pulled from it on a practical and symbolic level has a significant part to play in decisions they make about their adult lives. Findings demonstrate that the concept of belonging can be broken down into four dimensions; functional, informal, formal and social. How these develop from childhood onwards and the way they are perceived and constructed conditions individuals into particular roles and attitudes about their place on the farm and in the community. A delicate balance operates in the choices made about individuals' futures around the needs of the farm, the family, interpretations of the meaning and import of belonging and personal wishes. The study suggests that regardless of the nature of transitions to adulthood, an upbringing in the farming community shapes lives and acts as a profound cornerstone of identity and belonging whether this is willingly embraced or not.
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