Family Farms Are Still Around: Time to Invert the Old Agrarian Question

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Abstract

Family farming is far from dead, in either the developed or developing countries. Family farms need to be qualitatively defined, with both family management and substantial labour input being central elements. The ‘agrarian question’ has been largely about their disappearance and replacement by capitalist farms, or subsumption by agribusiness, but they have competed successfully with capitalist farms for a long period. In modern times, the economies of scale are largely captured by farms within the normal family-operated range. Pluriactivity is not only a means by which otherwise uneconomic farms survive; it is also a means of enlarging income and opportunity as farms can be managed with less labour. The adaptability and efficiency that family farmers have demonstrated continue. It is time that the old agrarian question was inverted to ask how and why family farming survives, and why it will continue to do so.

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