The Munro family in Scotland. Diversity is inherent to the family farm model.
Photo: R. Cheyne

16.06.2014

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Family farming has many different meanings to many different people. While such farms come in all shape and sizes, one thing all practitioners agree on is that family farming is more than a business – it’s a way of life. The following article shows what constitutes this way of life, the challenges that family farms in Europe and throughout the world face and why and how the European Union supports this type of enterprise.

The concept of family farming varies according to culture, region and tradition. Diversity is inherent to the model and consequently, there is no universal definition for family farming. Nevertheless, there are some shared principles that can define family farming as agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral or aquaculture production that is managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour, including that of both women and men. The family and the farm are linked, co-evolve and combine economic, environmental, reproductive, social and cultural functions. Definitions of family farming tend to ignore size criteria, especially if they refer to large geographic areas. This is because such farms vary greatly in size, and furthermore what is considered a small holding in one region may not be in another.

Overall, family farming is more than just a business – it’s a way of life and one that is deeply associated with values such as solidarity, continuity and commitment.

While it is true that the majority of family farmers are smallholders who remain highly vulnerable to poverty and hunger, it is important to remember that this model dominates today’s agricultural landscape: family farms provide 70 per cent of world food production (FAO, 2013), employ a significant workforce and are also a key driver of rural development throughout the planet.  

Common strengths and common challenges

Reducing poverty in developing countries requires an increased production of staples by family farms.

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