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Abstract

This paper reports on a survey of 221 small-scale farmers conducted in five western states. Despite the current productive dominance of large farms, an argument can be made that small-scale farming is desirable both for social and ecological reasons. Discussion focuses on the tradition-oriented goals and values of small-scale farmers, special problems associated with smallness of scale, diverse sources of income, cost-minimization and risk reduction strategies, and determinants of financial viability. Results indicate that there are economic penalties attached to heavy investments of time and resources by respondents who attempt to make a living primarily by farming. In most cases non-farm sources of income are necessary to offset insufficient farm income and provide the bulk of the support for the household. It is concluded that institutional change should be directed toward increasing the financial rewards for farming on a small scale rather than encouraging farmers to incur the risks associated with expanded scale of operation.

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