Farming Families Wellbeing in the 21st Century

July 14, 2021 by No Comments | Category Census, Data Protection, Environment and climate change, Farming and rural, Social Justice, Working in statistics

From farm data to families wellbeing

Last month I wrote about our new Scottish Crop Map data. But we are also getting the most from the data we already have. One such project aims to link anonymised farm data to other national surveys and data sets like Scotland’s Census. This will help us look at farming families wellbeing.

RESAS collect and publishes a vast amount of farm data. This gives a picture of agriculture in tonnes of production, head of cattle or even how many tractors there are. Farm businesses are more than that. They also need hard working people and more often farming is a part of family life.

This exciting project will see my colleagues team up with ADR (Administrative Data Research) Scotland and Wales. The aim is to use our data to get a better picture of the lives of hard working farmers, spouses and their children. Even more exciting is this is the first cross UK data linkage project of its kind with similar projects happening in the other three nations.

What do 21st century farming families look like?

By adding the human aspect to the farm data, we can examine what the 21st century farm household looks like. This will give us new insights into farming families wellbeing. Also we may uncover new trends in their prosperity or the lack of it. This will help us understand farmers ability to be resilient and adapt to the many modern day problems which will challenge their current ways of working.

There are a lot of questions that we hope to unlock with this project. Like, can we understand how income is distributed? Is there inequality or even poverty? Where is it located? Can we identify a type of farmer that is more prone to these problems and less able to adapt to the future? What added pressure does that place on their business and their family?

The project may start to answer these and other questions and should tease out unseen trends. In time, the project may even help to uncover new ideas, and help spark other projects that are as yet unknown. That really would be a successful outcome!

I hope this informs better policies in the future and achieve better outcomes for the farmer, the environment and the food they produce.

How we protect the people and their data

As with all data linkage projects, our priority is to protect the privacy of the people behind the data. So I am delighted that the project team will be using the National Safe Haven to store and analyse the data.

The ‘Safe Haven’ is a highly secure centre for linking sensitive data. Analysts who work there are certify trained on how to safe-guard the data they work with. The ways of working and added security will ensure no data is ever leaked. No individual analyst will have access to all of the data all at once.

Instead we will be using anonymised data. That means the data cannot identify people but can still be linked using special methods. Also our project will be examined closely to see that there is real public benefit before we are given access to the ‘Safe Haven’ and the go ahead to link our data.

What next and more information

The project team are keen to engage with farmers and other groups to hear public concerns. As we address these concerns it will help us shape a better project.

Last month the team arranged a meeting with a reference group made of NFUS, other farming bodies and research institutes. The feedback was very positive and we are holding more talks as the project progresses. They are also helping us look at the way in which we are conducting the project.

If you would like to get involved or like more information then please contact my colleague David Cruickshank. You can also leave a message with your Agricultural Census Officer.

If you are a researcher, the project team can be contacted by email and more information on ADR Scotland is available here.

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