Changing Hamlet Norms and Practices
Finally, another aspect of the normative foundations for hamlet farming should not go unmentioned. While founding these operations requires (re)activating ‘traditional’ hamlet norms and practices, hamlet farming also affects the very normative context in which it is located, in particular when hamlet farms become corporate entities. While hamlet-based farming is a means to share the burden for aging farm households, in the long run all hamlet-based farms I have interviewed face severe labour shortages. Incorporating the hamlet farm is often raised as a potential solution to this problem, as it enables farms to offer regular employment to meet their demand for additional labour, hired if necessary from the ‘outside’. Heavily promoted by agricultural policymakers, corporatization affects the normative foundations of a growing number of hamlet farms. For example, incorporation typically entails that cultivation and land maintenance have to be covered by regular (and thus costly) labour. This means turning a social obligation into a paid service, thus potentially undermining the norm of protecting farmland as a collective good that underpins the hamlet-based farm - especially if the service is taken over by ‘external’ labour. In contrast, less formal entities can profit from their embedding in the hamlet as a social unit, thus ‘socializing’ time-consuming tasks like cutting grass and cleaning drainage channels. Facing the risk that creating a more stable business environment can also turn into a burden to the functionality of hamlet-based farms, some hamlet leaders in Hikawa are eager to shape the process of incorporation with careful regard to the relation between farm and hamlet, integrating the institutional features of the latter into the set-up of the former.