Het beoefenen van landbouw als nevenberoep : achtergronden, betekenis en ontwikkelingen van de beoefening van landbouw als nevenberoep

L.J.M. Weerdenburg

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


In the Netherlands only little is known about part-time farming. What we do know is mainly of a quantitative nature. As from about 1955 the available data show an increase of the number of farms of over 2.5 acres possessed by nonagriculturists, while at the same time the number of small full-time farms has decreased rapidly. These developments evoke the question as to what is up with regard to part-time farming. Are we dealing exclusively with a proces of desagrarization, i.e. with a proces by which farmers are gradually moving to nonagricultural occupations, choosing for part-time farming before flowing-off definitely? Or are we faced also with reagrarization, i.e. with a process of land mobility by which non-agriculturists obtain from farmers small plots of land for agricultural use? An answer to this question can only tell us something about the nature of the observed trends. However there are many other aspects and implications related to the phenomenon of part-time farming which may be of importance. The significance of this will be partly determined bij the nature of the trend.

The available quantitative data do not enable us to give a definite answer to the question whether we are dealing only with desagrarization or also with reagrarization. There is some evidence that the developments under discussion are largely related to desagrarization, and consequently not to reagrarization. Assuming that these impressions are correct, it does not follow, however, that this situation will be continued in the near future. It is possible that a type of part-time farming will come up which is highly attractive for people with an 'urban' occupation. Some authors hold that even the dominating present-day type of part- time farming is attractive for many non-farm people, for it compensates a great number of shortcomings and needs allegedly experienced by many in the urban life- and-work situation.

What kinds of developments with regard to part-time farming are to be expected in the Netherlands? This is not an academic question but a question of a great practical relevance for the future of the countryside, especially as far as the professional agriculture in a number of areas, as well as the attraction of the landscape and the viability of the countryside are concerned.

In a twofold way we tried to get more insight into our problem. In the first place we analysed the available - mainly German and American - literature. In the second place we carried out an investigation. Two Dutch villages were selected (Didam and Uden). In the former part-time farming is a very frequent occurring phenomenon, while in the latter it holds a far less important place. The developments are mutually compared. and connected with current developments in agriculture (flow-off, production-pattern), in society at large (professionalization, leisure) and the changed position of the persons concerned.
The literature analysis provided several data for a greater insight in the subject. So it was possible to conclude that in most countries migration from agriculture to other jobs mostly take place gradually and that this often leads to an increase of the number of part-time farmers. Another conclusion based on the literature-analysis was that an important explanation basis for part-time farming is constituted by the need for continuation of the way of life and of the social and fysical environment, so frequently recognized in the studies examined. The most frequent mentioned motives for a part-time farm - 'more income' and 'hobby' - cannot be seen separated from such a need for continuation.

Important characteristics of the part-time farmers are: they mostly have a relatively poor training and usually have no 'urban' jobs. Consequently they have a low income from their main occupation. Nevertheless they usually are content with the situation in which they find themselves. Characteristic for the type of holding is, that it mostly is a reduced mode of the current type of fulltime farms. Other characteristics of part-time farming are a relatively extensive production and a general low average efficiency.

The implications of part-time farming are judged very differently. As far as it concerns the implications for the professional agriculture mentioned in literature the opinions mostly are negative. The implications for the society and the people concerned on the contrary are judged positive in most cases.

From the literature-analyses there also emerged that, though the attachment to agriculture and the land usually is very great, there is often a, more or less gradual, reduction of the size of the part-time farm, while at generation-turn in most cases complete termination of the farm takes place.

From the research on the field in Didam and Uden there appears that in these areas the great majority of the part-timers came from farms (farm-heads as well as farmers' sons). So we may conclude that we mainly are facing a desagrarization proces. The most important tendencies we have found correspond with those emerging from foreign literature. However we could analyse them a bit further, and were able to indicate some background factors. One of these factors is, that the way and the extent to which one gives up part-time farming are directly related to the extent one remains integrated in the agricultural environment. It also appears that to the extent in which one gets integrated in the non-agricultural environment is of significance for the agricultural parttime job. Further there are indications that the time elapsed since the day one left agriculture as a main occupation has also some influence on the proces. The most striking aspect - and in the end probably also the most significant one - however, turned out to be the influence of the modern way of living upon parttime farming. In fact, contrary to frequently verbalized ambitions in other senses, many part-timers reduce or terminate gradually their enterprise, while at the same time also their production-pattern changes. According to the degree to which part-time farmers have accepted the modern way of life, they seem to choose those branches of production which entail less inconveniences (heavy labour, bondage etc.). As a result there is a preference to horticulture and sometimes to crop-farming and poultry. Other research-results connected with the acceptance of a modem way of living are that more simplified patterns of production were chosen, and that factors of commercial nature clearly guided the choice of the production-branche.

As far as the comparison between the two areas involved in the research is concerned, it may be concluded that the Uden part-timers have broken with agriculture much more drastically than their colleagues in Didam. The Uden part- timers resembles already somewhat a real hobby-farmer, while the Didam part-timer still has much in common with the normal small farmer.

As the most important conclusion it may be stated that - perhaps with the exception of the avowedly hobbyistic and the commercial modes of land-use by non-agriculturists - we are facing a transitional situation which must be seen as a compromise between on the one hand the agricultural occupation which one once chose or aspired to and on the other hand the need of a sufficient income. This transitional situation has the characteristic, that in most cases the emphasis is placed more and more on the main job. In this proces the modern way of living plays such a conditioning role that to the developments in question, just like those concerning the acceptance of the modern way of living itself, may be attached a certain amount of irreversibility.

Whether or not in the future part-time farming may or will occur on a large scale is difficult to forecast. Yet we can point out some likely and some possible tendencies, drawing also on foreign literature. As a likely tendency we have to mention specially a continuing out-migration of farmers in the future, which will begin with part-time farming and setting itself forth step by step. As far as the existing part-time farms are concerned, it can be said that for the time being the present trends - i.e. towards gradual reduction, rationalization and comfortability - will increasingly shape the situation. As possible future developments can be mentioned both the rise of bigger, commercial part-time farms in some areas appropriate to this scope and an increasing interest for land use by people from urban origine, whereby perhaps the latter phenomenon will correspond to the mode of part-time farming arising from within the agricultural sector, as mentioned above.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Hofstee, E.W., Promotor
Award date10 Mar 1972
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publication statusPublished - 1972


  • netherlands
  • part time farming

Cite this