1.1 Man and Land at the Individual Level
The main change in the relation between man and land at
the level of the individual farm household relates to changes
in the size and type of farms. In Germany, traditionally,
farms were of different sizes, family farms predominating.
Farms of large sizes were few in the part of Germany which
now constitutes the Federal Republic. They were mainly estates
owned by the nobility, or public domain. Already during the
pre-industrialization period, many farms were of a smaller
size than a family holding, especially near cities and in
regions where it was the custom to bequeath the farm to several
heirs. Some of these small farmers were able to specialize
in satisfying the needs of the urban dwellers; others became
parttime farmers occupied mainly in agricultural work or handicrafts.
The early period of industrialization until World War I
brought little change in the farm-size structure of German
agriculture. The man -land ratio was more or less constant.
The increasing demand for food in the emerging cities improved
the prospects for small holdings because of the greater demand
for animal products and vegetables. In general, the biological-technical
progress with the utilization of manure, the results of research
on breeding and feeding, and the improved cropping pattern
led to an increase in the production per area. This intensified
production, together with the low risk because of diversified
farm organization and the fertility of the soil on account
of the high animal ratio, resulted in the conditions of livelihood
of the farming population developing at the same pace as that
of the rest of the society.
Between World War I and II, the man - land ratio still did
not change very much. The increasing demand from the cities
made it possible to intensify production, especially animal
production which, alone, provided 80 per cent of the income
of small and medium size farms.
Techanization was still limited to mower, seed drill, and
similar equipment which increased yields rather than saved
labour. The process of increasing production - 3 per cent
in the long run -continued, and the more economic, market-oriented
management of farms led to some regional differentiation in
The thorough change in the size and type of farms occurred
within the last 30 years. Starting around 1950, Germany experienced
a rapid industrialization which resulted in migration from
agriculture as an occupation, and, later, from the village
to the cities. The decrease in the agricultural labour force
was possible only because of an increase in the size of farms,
substitution of capital for labour, and increase in labour
This outmigration was caused by a number of factors. The
higher wage level, even for unskilled labour, played an important
role. Especially the younger generation was attracted by the
so-called better life in the cities as well as by independence
from the strict social control in the village. Differences
in the level of schools and training facilities and generally
better opportunities also played a role.
The substitution of labour by capital was a very rapid process.
While, in 1949, 75,000 tractors were operating in German agriculture,
this number increased to 1.4 million by 1974, and other investments
showed a similar increase. On small farms, this mechanization
was difficult to justify from an economic standpoint, and
various forms of joint use of machinery developed. In the
case of small farms, the increase in yield through the utilization
of machinery was more important than the laboursaving effect,
and, frequently, a small farmer could prevent his son from
migrating only by purchasing a tractor so that the son no
longer had to be a "cow farmer."
This rapidly developing mechanization was made possible
by relatively favourable product prices for agriculture. But
it went along with little adjustment of farm sizes to the
requirements of mechanized agriculture. Until the 60s, the
combination of biological-technical and mechanical-technical
progress caused an increase in productivity which - even with
difficulty - made it possible for agriculture to follow at
some distance the progress achieved in other sectors.
But when increasing labour shortage, increasing capital
requirements and interest payments, and every rise in the
income levels in industry put more and more pressure on .agriculture,
far-reaching changes occurred in the size and type of farms.
Between 1949 and 1976, not less than 760,000 farms = 50 per
cent ceased to operate. Regionwise, the process differed with
regard to the time at which it started and to its intensity.
The degree of industrialization, the type of industries, and
the prevailing agrarian structure played a role.
For those who remained in agriculture, the type of farming
underwent drastic changes. Farming, in the first place, ceased
to guarantee subsistence to every owner of a family farm.
Farming was no longer a way of life but an economic enterprise
requiring managerial skill of a high degree. Not every farmer
was successful in adjusting to the new conditions, and there
was an important differentiation within agriculture. Income
per farm worker showed a difference of as much as 1 : 6 between
the upper and lower fourth of holdings, and a much greater
one between the richest and the poorest farms.
The ever increasing capital requirements brought about a
tendency to increase the size of farms by taking over the
land of those who had given up farming. In addition, a trend
to simplify farm organization by giving up the traditional
diversity developed, and, especially production for self-sufficiency
was discontinued. Specialization in certain types of production
reduced the necessary number of machines and different forms
of cooperation became popular with a view to reaping economies
of scale, or to enjoying cost degression. In some cases, specialization
included processing and, especially in the case of animal
production, production on the basis of purchased fodder.
The whole process did not only reduce the number of farms
by 50 per cent and increase the average size from 8 to more
than 30 ha over the 30- year period, but led to distinctly
different types of farms. Today, German agriculture consists
of about 400,000 full-time farms
- 95,000 farms with an additional income of less than 50
per cent 320,000 farms with an income of less than 50 per
cent from agriculture
- 815,000 farms of more than 1 ha.
In addition, more than 1.5 million households have homesteads
with agriculturally used areas of less than 1 ha.
Thus, while the size structure and organization of holdings
underwent a considerable change, the ownership and tenancy
situation remained rather constant. German farmers usually
own their land. Tenant farmers are few, and, in such cases,
the land is either owned by the state, or by a farmer who
died and whose family feels unable to manage the farm. Renting
plots is more common, especially in the area where the farm
is divided among the heirs. This serves the purpose of adjusting
farm size to different farm types and to the availability
of labour and machinery. With the phasing out of many small
farms, this type of land lease has increased, and rented land
now makes up about 22 instead of 12 per cent (in 1949) of
all agricultural land and is increasing further.