School of Economics

Small farms: Decline or Persistence?


Small farms dominate agriculture in terms of numbers of producers of agricultural commodities, but a large and rising share of output and factor use is accounted for by larger farms.

The expansion of the EU to the east has brought into the CAP millions of household plots which hardly fit the traditional family-farm model. Land market imperfections and non-monetary preferences of farm operators often hinder structural change and provide grounds for the persistence of the small scale farming. Rather than exiting agriculture, many small farms are diversifying their livelihoods into nonfarm activities and are becoming less reliant on farming.

Within Europe, with the change in the focus of the CAP towards lower production incentives and more environmental types of support the policy response of small farms is an important issue, particularly for some of the New Member States.

Understanding what factors promote or hinder the shift to commercialisation will be critical for assessments of likely future structural change. While the EU faces some unique challenges in managing the structural transformation of its own small farms, still there is much that can be usefully learnt from similar small farm transitions in other parts of the world. Small farms still dominate agriculture in most developing and transition countries, including several fast growing Asian countries. Understanding the roles small farms play in these different contexts, how they are adjusting to similar changes in marketing chains, and how effective different policy approaches have been, can help inform appropriate policies.

Topics for Discussion

The main topics for discussion are:

  • Small farms: definitions, trends and livelihood patterns
  • Changes in factor/product markets and implications for the future of small scale farming
  • Farm scale and economic efficiency: revisiting an old debate
  • Subsistence and semi-subsistence farming: modelling and analysis
  • Productive, income generating and social role of small farms
  • Effects of aging population, migration and human capital on future farm size structure
  • Environmental and other non-monetary costs and benefits of small farms
  • Small farms policies: instruments and impacts.

Keynote Speakers

  • Csaba Csaki Corvinus, University Budapest
  • Gertrud Buchenrieder, Leibniz-Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe, Halle
  • Johan Swinnen, Catholic University of Leuven
  • Peter Hazell, Imperial College London
  • Sophia Davidova, University of Kent


Provisional Programme


Thursday 25th June

17:00-19:00 Registration Kent Business School foyer
19:00-20.30 Welcome Reception Dolce Vita Restaurant, Keynes College

Friday 26th June

08:30-09:00 Registration Kent Business School foyer
09:00-09.30 Official Opening Kent Business School Lecture Theatre (KBS LT)
Welcome by:
  • Julia Goodfellow - Vice Chancellor, University of Kent
  • David Colman - President, IAAE (Emeritus Professor, University of Manchester)
  • Sophia Davidova - Honorary Director, CEAS (School of Economics, University of Kent)
  • Csaba Forgács - Former President, EAAE (Corvinus University of Budapest)
09:30-11:00 Plenary session 1: Small Farms and Development Kent Business School Lecture Theatre (KBS LT)
Chair: David Colman
11:00-11:30 Coffee Break Kent Business School foyer
11:30-13:00 Contributed paper parallel session 1

Session 1.1 Farm Size, Growth and Exit? KBS LT
Chair: Claire Jack
Session 1.2 Persistence of small farms - country specific analyses Seminar Room 2 (SR2)
Chair: Dan Petrovici
Session 1.3 Agri-environmental and other non-monetary output of small farms; organic farming Seminar Room 5 (SR5)
Chair: Johan Swinnen
13:00-14:00 Lunch Kent Business School foyer
14:00-15:30 Plenary session 2: The role of small farms in the EU New Member States and in the Former Soviet Union KBS LT
Chair: Willi Meyers
15:30-16:00 Coffee Break Kent Business School foyer
16:00-17:30 Contributed paper parallel session 2 KBS LT
Chair: Michael Wallace
Session 2.1 On the way to survival: specialisation and/or diversification? Session 2.2 Theoretical and empirical models KBS Symposium room
Chair: Alastair Bailey
Session 2.3 Farmers goals, attitudes and strategies KBS Symposium room
Chair: Laure Latruffe
19:30 Conference Dinner The Darwin Suite, Darwin College - University of Kent


Saturday 27th June

09:30-11:00 Contributed paper parallel session 3 KBS LT

Session 3.1 Small farmers within the modern supply chain: integration and challenges
Chair: Csaba Forgacs
Session 3.2 CAP impact on small farms KBS Symposium Room
Chair: Ken Thomson
Session 3.3 Smallholders access to credit and support services SR2
Chair: Gertrud Buchenrieder
11:00-11:30 Coffee Break Kent Business School foyer
11:30-12:30 Contributed paper parallel session 4 KBS LT
Session 4.1 Small Farms in the US
Chair: Willi Meyers
Session 4.2 Agricultural policy and efficiency of smallholdersKBS Symposium Room
Chair: Jonathan Brooks
Session 4.3 Family farms: succession, flexibility and competitivenessSR2
Chair: Imre Fertó
12:30-13:30 Lunch Kent Business School foyer
13:50-15:00 Poster session Kent Business School foyer 1st Floor, and SR5
15:00-15.30 Coffee Break Kent Business School foyer
15:30-17:00 Contributed paper parallel session 5 KBS LT
Session 5.1 Non-farm employment of smallholders
Chair: Sophia Davidova
Session 5.2 Poverty alleviation and farmers cooperationKBS Symposium Room
Chair: Celine Bignebat
Session 5.3: Farm typology, strategy and structural adjustmentSR2
Chair: Sara Savastano
17:00-17.30 Closing Session Kent Business School foyer
Peter Hazell
Sophia Davidova


Poster Papers



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Last Updated: 12/03/2015