This article, devoted to the issue of non-agricultural economic activity in rural areas, reports upon the latest statistical data, as well as material obtained by way of field study. Successive sections acquaint the reader with the contemporary functional structure of rural areas, the areas in which non-agricultural businesses are concentrated, the development of new functions in the countryside and factors favouring this development. The summary notes that Poland’s period of transformation brought a dynamic development of activity of the above kind, albeit one that has not yet been able to make up for the earlier closedown of state-owned or cooperative enterprises. The greatest development of non-agricultural economic activity has been observed in city hinterland areas and has first and foremost involved the service sector and trade. In turn, the peripheral areas left more or less to their own devices have experienced slower development of business outside agriculture, in association with such unfavourable phenomena manifested therein as depopulation, unemployment, lack of investment, etc. These all contribute to deepening of the poverty existing in the aforementioned areas.