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Abstract

This research aims to identify the specific characteristics of small farms in developed countries and the factors which influence their survival and growth. Using the case of France, we employ statistical and econometric analysis of data from the Farm Structure Survey (N=70,000) for the period 2000-2007. The principal findings suggest that small farms are no more likely than other farms to employ “alternative” strategies to the predominant model of increasing farm size, nor are they more likely to diversify on-farm activities or operate under quality-labelled production systems, with the notable exception of organic agriculture. However, where small farms do adopt or practice these activities, they are seen to have a favourable effect in ensuring their survival and growth. In contrast, we are unable to conclude that pluriactivity of farm households has a positive impact on the survival of small enterprises. The effect of geographic location on small farms is largely expressed in their concentration in mountainous or disadvantaged regions. Overall, the trajectory of small farms is marked by farm exit, principally as the result of farmers retiring at the end of their careers. The small farm sector is also revitalised by both larger farms declining and thus being reclassified as small farms, as well as the progressive entry into agriculture of small farm holders whose income was previously derived largely off-farm.

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