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What do we mean by a ‘small farm’?


  • Lund, Philip J.


The holding of a seminar on the future for ‘small farms’ requires us to consider what is meant by a ‘small farm’. This is not as straightforward as might be imagined. It presupposes an unambiguous definition of what constitutes ‘a farm’ and a means of distinguishing those farms which are considered to be ‘small’ from the remainder of other farms, that is larger farms. This in turn presupposes an accepted measure of farm size (or amalgam of such measures) and adoption of an agreed size threshold below which farms might be described as ‘small’. However the choices in respect of measure of farm size and threshold for a farm being considered as ‘small’ may depend, respectively, on the particular policy context (for example, contribution to output or employment or land use) and the size distribution of farms within the country(ies) in question. In particular, and analogous with the definition of poverty, there is a choice to be made as to whether farm size is to be assessed in absolute or relative terms. If the former, virtually all farms in some countries may be considered to be small; if the latter, the existence of a ‘small farm’ sector will inevitably continue.

Suggested Citation

  • Lund, Philip J., 2009. "What do we mean by a ‘small farm’?," 111th Seminar, June 26-27, 2009, Canterbury, UK 52847, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:eaa111:52847

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    Farm; Agricultural holding; Farm size; Small farms; Part-time farming; Consumer/Household Economics; Land Economics/Use;

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