Farming for Survival: The Small Farmer in the Contemporary Rural Class Structure

  • Howard Newby
  • David Rose
  • Peter Saunders
  • Colin Bell
Part of the Edinburgh Studies in Sociology book series (ESIS)


The major problem faced by the small farmer is not dissimilar to that faced by other petit-bourgeois groups in contemporary society: how to ensure survival under conditions which threaten increasing economic marginality and eventual extinction. The tenacity of the small farmer in the face of such a threat has, of course, entered the folklore of English1 historical experience. The yeoman virtues of sturdy independence and solitary self-help have long been prized and celebrated as a source of strength in the English national character and, although we shall not be discussing the metaphysical niceties of this viewpoint here, it is worth pointing out that this perspective continues to infect much of the thinking and writing on what has come to be known as the ‘small farm problem’. In this context the small farmer2 has been a ‘problem’ since the state decisively intervened in the organisation and support of British agriculture during and immediately following the Second World War. For a less charitable interpretation of tenacity is obstinacy, and from the perspective of agricultural policy-makers the small farmer represents an obstacle to the rationalisation of British farming along more efficient and cost-effective lines.3 Indeed, since the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community the small farmer has found himself at the centre of political controversy over the financing of the Common Agricultural Policy, so that the ‘problem’ of small farmers is now not only one which concerns agricultural policy-makers but consumers, too.


Small Business Small Farmer Common Agricultural Policy Large Farmer Market Situation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Frank Bechhofer and Brian Elliott 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Newby
  • David Rose
  • Peter Saunders
  • Colin Bell

There are no affiliations available

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