Developments in modern agriculture have led to doubts regarding the long-term viability ofcurrent production systems. The changing structure of the Irish farming sector is part of aEuropean wide trend where the emerging model of agriculture is one comprised of a smallnumber of highly developed commercial farmers and a larger number of rural householdswho obtain income both on and off the farm. Early studies viewed the take up of off-farmemployment as a temporary adjustment process- a way of supplementing farm income whenit was low, but that view has been replaced over the last decade by research that notes itspersistence over time. The importance of assessing the effect of this trend is manifold. Offfarmemployment among farm households affects farm organisation, the future structure ofagriculture, public policies to aid farming families, public policies to maintain ruralcommunities, and the delivery of educational and training services to the farming sector.

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