EPRSauthor By / April 14, 2014

2014 International Year of Family Farming

2014 was designated the 2014 International Year of Family Farming at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in…

© xalanx / Fotolia

2014 was designated the 2014 International Year of Family Farming at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in 2011, promoted by the World Rural Forum and supported by civil society and farmers’ organizations.

2014 International Year of Family Farming
© xalanx / Fotolia

The objective is raising the profile of family farming by focusing world attention on its role in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and improving livelihoods, while protecting the environment and biodiversity. The concept of family farming covers various elements, it is associated with family values, such as solidarity, continuity and commitment; in economic terms. It is identified with specific entrepreneurial skills, business ownership and management, choice and risk behaviour, resilience and individual achievement. Family farming is often more than a professional occupation because it reflects a lifestyle based on beliefs and traditions about living and work.

Globally small-scale farmers produce over 70% of the world’s food needs. Contrary to the current perception, in nominal terms, the number of peasants and smallholders has increased (FAO).

43% of the active world population is employed in agriculture. The percentage is increased to 53% in developing countries. In sub-Sahara Africa, 80% of farms are family owned and worked. On a world level 1500 million homes live from farming.

Family farming has to face a series of challenges: the difficulty of access to resources and raw materials, the aging of the population and the lack of generational take-over (abandoning of the land by children), lack of commercializing, training and financial services, price volatility, little or no participation in decision- making processes, etc. All this reflects the lack of recognition of the strategic role it carries out.

Some data speaks for itself: in developing countries 3 of every four poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their subsistence. Women own less than 2% of the land and receive less than 5% of the meagre technical assistance provided to farmers.

In Europe family farming is the most common operational farming model and thus of great importance in the EU. The majority of the EU’s 12 million farms are family farms, passed down from one generation to another, and contribute to the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of rural areas.

Family farms in the EU are highly diversified, in terms of their size, activities they engage in, availability of resources, degree of market integration, competitiveness, etc. They operate in different economic, agro-ecological and social contexts, ensuring food security while meeting rising societal expectations for food safety, quality, value, origin and diversity of food, and thus contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The total farm labour force in the EU-27 was the equivalent of 10.4 million annual working units in 2010, of which 9.6 million (92 %) were regular workers (see Table 3 in Farm structure statistics, Eurostat, data September 2012). Agriculture remains very much a family-oriented activity in the majority of EU Member States; nearly 78 % of the total agricultural workers were farm holders or their family members. Just over 35 % of the agricultural workers in the EU-27 were women. Among EU-27 agricultural holders, the vast majority (97.1 %) were natural persons; France alone accounted for around half of the holdings in the EU-27 that were under the control of legal entities or groups.

There are around 10 million persons employed in agriculture, representing 5% of total employment. On the other hand, the Farm Structure Survey indicates that 25 million people were regularly engaged in farm work in the EU during 2010 (Agricultural Census – main results, Eurostat, 2010). in most EU countries the bulk of farm work is carried out by the holders and their family members (mainly their spouses): together, they account for 92.2% of those working on the farms, to very similar shares (46.6% for the holders, 45.6% for their family members).

See also the EPRS keysource on Future of small farms, February 2014


Family farming in Europe: challenges and prospects: in depth analysis / Davidova S.; Thomson, K. European Parliament, DG IPOL, PD B Structural and Cohesion Policies, March 2014, 58p.

The document discusses the definitions, challenges and future prospects of family farming in the EU. Some of them are specific to family farmers: their smallness, lack of power within the food chain, and intergenerational farm succession. However, despite the challenges family farming is likely to continue to dominate EU farm structure in the foreseeable future. Action at both EU and national policy levels could help towards a more sustainable and resilient family farm sector.

CAP 2014-2020 tools to enhance family farming: opportunities and limits / Hennessy, T. European Parliament, DG IPOL, PD B, March 2014, 50p.

As family farming is the predominant business model in European agriculture, the key challenges faced by family farms are considered and the effectiveness of policy measures in the EU, both the current measures and those agreed for the 2014 to 2020 period, in tackling these challenges is examined. The main conclusions are that Pillar I policies have transferred substantial funds to family farms and have ensured the survival of many farms.

Family farming and the role of policy in the EU / Alan Matthews blog capreform.eu, November 27, 2013

The author explains reasons for different perceptions of the position of family farms and discusses the role of policy in supporting family farms. The debates pivot around the distinction between family farms and small farms. The author concludes: “As we will see, all small farms are family farms, but not all family farms are small farms.”

North and South sign commitment to family farming / Euractiv, 6/3/2014.

At Paris’ Salon International de l’Agriculture, several European nations signed a joint ministerial statement(25/2/2014) with developing countries in support of family farming. Agriculture ministers from 21 different countries have adopted the text, including those of Romania, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Mali, South Africa and Brazil.


Family Farming / European Network for Rural Development. EU Rural View 17, 2013, 36p.

This edition of the EU Rural Review showcases the diversity inherent to the model, the characteristic traits of family-run farm businesses and identifies key challenges and opportunities. It focuses on perennial management challenges strongly associated with such businesses, including: the need for modernisation and innovation on the farm; the provision of environmental services; preparing for succession and encouraging future generations to get involved; and developing economic flexibility via farm-centred diversification and pluriactivity. In addition, the role of cooperatives and their potential for family farm businesses is analysed.

Family Farming in the United States / MacDonald James, USDA ERS. 2014

The article describes the family farms in U.S., characteristics of family farms, amount of labour provided by family members, share of proportion of certain commodity groups produced by family farms, information on nonfamily farms and explanation why family farms dominate agriculture. Farms in the United States are often much larger than the farms in developing countries, but farms relying primarily on family labour still account for nearly half of U.S. farm output. Larger U.S. farms, which often rely extensively on hired and contract labour, still tend to be family-operated businesses. Family organization has distinct advantages for most agricultural activities in the United States and around the world.

 Family Farming in Romania / Nathaniel Page; Răzvan Popa. Fundația ADEPT Transilvania, October 2013, 13p.

The authors show that the large number of small-scale holdings is an important source of economic, cultural, social, and natural strength for Romania. There are 3.9 million farm holdings in Romania. They are of significant economic importance, but also provide of many public goods. However, these small-scale farmed landscapes, are under increasing pressure due to loss of economic viability, failure to provide adequate living conditions for young farmers, and resulting abandonment. The importance of family farmed landscapes in their provision of public goods merits policy support for the small-scale farming communities which maintain them.

Mountain Farming is Family Farming: A contribution from mountain areas to the International Year of Family Farming 2014 / Susanne Wymann von Dach; Rosalaura Romeo; Alessia Vita; Maria Wurzinger; Thomas Kohler (eds.). FAO, 2013, 98p.

This FAO publication, featuring 25 case studies from across the mountain landscapes, gives an overview of the global changes affecting mountain farming and the strategies that mountain communities have developed to cope. Each study also presents a set of lessons and recommendations, meant to inform and benefit mountain communities, policy-makers, development experts and academics who work to support mountain farmers and to protect mountains.

Updating the ERS Farm Typology / Hoppe, Robert A. ; MacDonald, James M. ERS USDA, EIB-110, April 2013, 40p.

The USDA’s ERS farm typology was originally developed to classify farms into relatively homogeneous groups based on their gross farm sales, the primary occupation of their operators, and whether the farms are family farms. After 15 years this report has been updated to reflect commodity price inflation and the shift of production to larger farms. After the price adjustment, small farms are defined as those with GCFI less than $350,000, up from the original $250,000 cutoff.

Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report / ERS USDA, EIB Nr 66, 2010, Robert A. Hoppe and David E. Banker, 64p.

Most U.S. farms (98 %, 2007) are family operations, even the largest farms are predominantly family run. Large-scale family farms and non family farms account for 12% of U.S farms but 84 % of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count but produce a modest share of farm output. Farm operator households cannot be characterized as low-income when both farm and off-farm income are considered. Nevertheless, limited-resource farms still exist and account for 3 to 12 percent of family farms, depending on how “limited-resource” is defined.

Stakeholder views

European Parliaments views

Question for written answers:
P-000827/2014, International Year of Family Farming, Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, 28/1/2014

E-013748-13, Family farming, James Nicholson, 4/12/2013

E-009742-13, International Year of Family Farming, Marc Tarabella, 29/8/2013

European Commission

Conference: Family Farming: A dialogue towards more sustainable and resilient farming in Europe and the world (Brussels, 29 November 2013)

The conference drew attention to the important role of family farming, the key challenges and priorities for the future, as well as address the best means of supporting family farms. (Program, video, speeches, presentations and High Level Panel discussion are available at the conference webpage.)

Online-consultation on “the role of family farming, key challenges and priorities for the future” was open 2/8 – 11/10/2013 to gather information of the role of family farming, key challenges and priorities for the future. Citizens, organizations and public authorities were invited to contribute to the consultation. The results of the 3414 contributions was be presented in the November conference.

1. Executive summary of public consultation

The role of family farming, key challenges and priorities for the future / European Commission, 2013. 6p.
2. In addition, the Commission received a number of free contributions, presented here.

European Economic and Social Committee

“Family farming is a lifestyle” 2014 – International Year of Family Farming / Dilyana Slavova, PresidentConsultative Works in Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT)

International organisations’ views


2014 International Year of Family Farming
2014 IYFF – Calendar of activities

List of coming events organized for 2014 International Year of Family Farming

Events already organized:
Global Forum and Expo on Family Farming / Budapest, Hungary, 4-6 March, 2014
The Ministry of Rural Development of Hungary, in cooperation with FAO, organized the “Global Forum and Expo on Family Farming” in Budapest, on 4-6 March 2014, as a key event for the International Year. The Forum addressed four main subjects: 1 The role of family farms in contributing to local and global food security; 2 Family farming and the three dimensions of sustainability – harmonizing the social, environmental and economic aspects; 3 Key challenges and opportunities for agricultural investments in family farming; 4 The role of women and young farmers in family farming.

Chair summary – Summary conclusions Panel 1: Family farming and the three dimensions of sustainabilty – harmonizing, the social, environmental and economic aspects – summary

Panel 2: Key challenges and opportunities for agricultural investments in family farming (Where are we globally and regionally?) – summary

Panel 3: Role of women and young farmers in family farming – summary

Mountain Farming is Family Farming: A contribution from mountain areas to the International Year of Family Farming 2014 / Susanne Wymann von Dach et al. (eds.). FAO, 2013, 98p.

This publication, featuring 25 case studies from across the mountain landscapes, gives an overview of the global changes affecting mountain farming and the strategies that mountain communities have developed to cope. Each study also presents a set of lessons and recommendations, meant to inform and benefit mountain communities, policy-makers, development experts and academics who work to support mountain farmers and to protect mountains.

Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security / HLPE. 2013. Rome.

The report, requested by the CFS, calls for a new deal for smallholders comprising the following five components: conservation and enhancement of soil health, sustainable management of all water sources, extending appropriate technologies and inputs, providing the needed credit and insurance, ensuring assured and remunerative marketing opportunities.´

Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Growth And Bridging The Gap For Small-Family Farms / FAO/OECD. 2012, 89p.

G20 leaders committed in 2011, to sustainably increase agricultural production and productivity. Mexico, as G20 President, invited international organisations to examine practical actions. This report, co-ordinated by the FAO and the OECD, responds to this request. The role of smallholder farmers and their families in increasing agricultural productivity growth sustainable will be crucial. The report gives 10 recommendations to G20 countries.

World Bank

Structural Transformation and Rural Change Revisited: Challenges for Late Developing Countries in a Globalizing World / Losch, Bruno; Fréguin-Gresh, Sandrine; White, Eric Thomas. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. 2012, 246p.
The book is based on an in-depth seven-country study that surveyed 8,000 rural households. It specifically focuses on these households’ activity and income structures in an evolving agricultural context marked by liberalization and trends of increasing economic integration. The book suggests several policy orientations, which include a clear need to focus on staples and family agriculture, to engage in targeted development strategies at the regional level, and to pursue a policy of ‘territorial development’ that promotes strong rural-urban linkages at the level of rural localities, towns and districts.

Agriculture and Poverty Reduction. Agriculture for Development Brief / World Bank. World Develoment Report 2008. 2p.

Smallholder agriculture has great potential to reduce overall national poverty levels. The report refers to an increase of one percent in agricultural GDP which reduces poverty by four times as much as the same percentage increase in non-agricultural GDP.

NGO views


Draft Supporting Paper for Family Farming Consultation / CEJA, 11/10/2013. Paper form the public consultation of the European Commission

This supporting paper will expand on the issue of sustainability of the European family farming model as it stands today by outlining its biggest challenges as well as the opportunities it presents. The biggest challenge to the sustainability of family farming in Europe is the ageing demographics in the sector. Several factors hinder succession and young people entering the farming sector. The most important of these is access to land. Other many barriers should be addressed in order to secure the sustainability of the sector such as: capital, credit, training, advisory services, technology, information, social and local services.

ELO (European Landowners Organization), EFB (European Family Businesses)

Family farms are family businesses. Joint Position ELO / EFB for the public consultation of the European Commission, 11/10/2013, 20p.

Family farms are becoming a more prominent feature of EU level entrepreneurial policy. Conceiving of Europe’s family farmers and landowners as rural businessmen and business owners, as entrepreneurs with an intergenerational perspective, with an important local and regional economic function is vital, because it promotes policies at European, national and regional levels that will best support the long term economic viability of family farms. And moreover, it emphasizes the economic and social value of one of Europe’s oldest and most successful business models, ensuring family farming is seen as a smart way to achieve sustainable, competitive business growth for the future.

European Coordination Via Campesina from the Public Consultation of the European Commission, 2013

2014 International Year of small scale sustainable Family Farming. 3p.

For the European Coordination Via Campesina, a unique opportunity to present and develop the potential of agriculture farmers and small producers in Europe. Family farming – peasant farming and small producers are not strictly synonymies, but to ECVC this agriculture represents a majority of European farms that needs to be developed during the years of family farming proposed by the UN.

2014, a year of international family farming Is it all put on or true opportunity? / Gérard Choplin, .La Via Campesina, December 2013.

World Rural Forum

Consultation with leading farmers’ organisations linked to family farming in Africa, Latin America and Asia Within the framework of the EC international conference “Family Farming: A dialogue towards more sustainable and resilient farming in Europe and the World”, 29 November 2013 / Executive Secretariat of the Word Rural Forum, October 2013, 29p.

Documents published in the 2014 IYFF by World Rural Forum

World Farmers’ Organization

F@rmletter, issue n. 23, January 2014 / World Farmers Organization, 29p.

On the occasion of the IYFF, the January issue drew attention to the important role of family farming and the key challenges and priorities for the future. You will find the differences, and the different programs and activities on family farming all over the world. Special contribution:
Boosting Family Farming is key for a world without hunger / Gerd Sonnleitner, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Family Farming, p.2

IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)

The fifth global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum / February 2014, FAO Rome

Over 90 farmers’ leaders, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world, will come together to celebrate the 2014 IYFF, to interact with partners, research institutes and NGOs. 2014 is also the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the year of negotiation of new International Guidelines on Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries. The program, webcast and presentations of the meeting are available on the site.

Investing in smallholder family farmers… for the future we want / IFAD, 2014 Governing Council, 12p.

IFAD, in collaboration with its Member States and partners, will need to develop new approaches to respond to the challenges and opportunities for smallholder family farmers in order to enable them to participate in and benefit from inclusive growth, to realize the future we want. Governors are invited to share their visions on the future role of smallholder family farmers in their countries and how IFAD can continue to support them to achieve this vision, building on successful cases and lessons learned.

IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements)

Organic agriculture for family farming / IFOAM, 2013, 2p.

In this brochure for the IYFF-2014 IFOAM calls for improved local, national and international policies to promote sustainable organic family and smallholder systems and businesses.


Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics: 2013 edition / Eurostat, November 2013, 249p.

Statistical information and data on structure of agriculture you will find in chapter 2 – The structure of agriculture in the EU, from the agricultural census 2010.
Farming was predominantly a family activity in the EU-28; about three quarters (77.8 %) of the labour input in agriculture came from the holder or members of his/her family in 2010. In Malta, Croatia, Ireland and Poland, family labour accounted for over 90 % of the volume of work carried out in agriculture (see Figure 2.4). By contrast, there was a small number of countries for whom nonfamily labour accounted for a majority of the labour force in 2010: these included France (56.3 %), Slovakia (71.9 %) and the Czech Republic (77.7 %).
Even in some countries where family labour provided a majority of labour, there were relatively large volumes of non-family labour: in particular, non-regular (seasonal) labour (often for picking perishable crops) represented between 10 % and 20 % of the total labour input within agriculture in Cyprus, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain.
At page 40, Table 2.9: Farm labour force, 2010
At page 41, Figure 2.4: Farm labour force, by type of labour, 2010

Structure and dynamics of EU farms: changes, trends and policy relevance / EU Agricultural Economics Brief No 9, October 2013, 15p.
This brief takes a closer look at farm structures in the European Union, on the basis of the most recent statistics available.

Agricultural census 2010 – main results / Data September 2013

Semi-subsistence farming: value and directions of development / Sophia Davidova et al. European Parliament, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies. April 2013, 113p.

page 35 – Table 6: Average farm sizes by farm holder age in MS, 2010 (in ha)

What is a small farm? / EU. EU Agricultural Economic Brief Nr 2, July 2011, 11p.
The note analyses possible criteria which could be used to define ‘small farms’. Data on family farms: see Graph 2. Average labour input per farm in terms of annual working units in the EU-27, 2007 (workforce directly employed by the holding, of which family workforce)

Related Articles
  • […] A huge 43% of the global active population is employed in agriculture. This percentage increases to 53% in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of farms are family-owned and worked. Globally, 1500 million homes depend on farming to live. In developing countries 3 of every 4 poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their subsistence. In Europe family farming is the most common operational farming model. The majority of the EU’s 12 million farms are family farms and nearly 78 % of agricultural workers are farm owners or their family members. You can read more in our file on the 2014 International Year of Family Farming. […]

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