Small farmers and agricultural extension : surviving on a small farm in the Netherlands and possibilities for agricultural extension to reach a hard-to-reach category

B.M. Somers

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>This dissertation reports the results of the research project "Employment in Agriculture and Extension". Primary aims of the project were: a) to identify categories of farmers who are homogeneous in their survival strategies and b) to indicate ways agricultural extension could help farmers optimize their survival strategies. The project focussed on those farmers with a small farm, who have generally little or no contact with extension.<p>The empirical basis of the project consisted of an exploratory research in Westfriesland, an evaluation of an extension project for small farmers in Gelderland, and a qualitative survey in a dairy and in an arable region.<p>The book contains two main parts. In the first part we investigate the character of the "small-farm problem" in various societal contexts, the solutions one proposed and the role of agricultural extension in alleviating the problem. We discuss the implementation and results of several extension projects for small- scale farmers in the 1970s and 1980s, especially the ways in which the various aspects of the instrument "extension" were used to improve the continuity chances for small farms. We concluded that for an effective target oriented approach the instrument extension has to be redirected in all its interrelated aspects.<p>The second part of the book deals with the. actual strategies of small-farming families. Their goals and strategies seem to be determined by a) the composition of the household and the stage in the family-cycle, and b) regional patterns of farming which bear a strong normative connotation (farming style) or are prompted by the local formal and informal knowledge system (centre function).<p>People on small farms, so appears from the interviews, cherish specific norms and values about living and working in agriculture. They have a distinguishable perception of their profession. In general, small farmers experience that their professional image contradicts the professional image of large farmers and extensionists. Moreover, they experience a disdain and demolition of their norms and values. The existence of these conflicting life-worlds hampers an effective target oriented approach of agricultural extension.<p>The ideological contradicitons that are highlighted in this book, are rooted in the structural marginal socioeconomic position of small farmers. Therefore, a better utilization of the agricultural knowledge system by small farmers can not only be reached through alleviating problems of communication, but requires a general reconsideration of the valuation of small farms. This should mean that extension activities that aim to improve the small farmers' prospects, must be accompanied by stronger policy instruments.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    • Nooij, A.T.J., Promotor
    Award date9 Oct 1991
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


    • small farms
    • farm results
    • profitability
    • netherlands
    • agricultural extension


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