Types of Farm Households in the 50s
In the middle of this century, agriculture consisted of
a limited number of socio-economic types of farm households.
Leaving out some special types that existed in only small
numbers as well as the collective organization of farming
in socialistic countries, one has to differentiate primarily
between three types:
- large landowners (landlords),
- small farmers (family farms),
- marginal farmers.
The landlords as a rule did not cultivate their
land themselves; instead, decentralized cultivation carried
out by tenants was common. For the landlord, his property
was primarily a source of prestige, while production was of
lesser importance. The main strategy they employed for achieving
a high income was skimming off a high rent rather than increasing
the yield. The comparatively stagnant agriculture resulted
in a low standard of living for the small share-tenants.
Small farmers had ‘family farms’ on
which the family members employed all of their labour and
lived off the produce of the land. Cultivation was carried
out in accordance with local customs and controlled by the
village society. The larger the farm, the more surplus could
be sold, but even in this case the requirements of the dependent
households and self-sufficiency determined the cropping pattern.
Marginal farm households had too little land at
their disposal in relation to their needs and the given soil
quality. These households tried to improve their living by
at least working partly as labourers on larger farms or in
public works. Many tenants belonged to this group.
The decrease in farm size caused by inheritance; population
growth and land reforms; the introduction of new technologies
in agriculture – leading to a close interweaving of
the agricultural sector with others; the creation of employment
opportunities through non-agricultural development; increasing
migration; the influence of mass media and mobility integrating
the rural population into the overall society; all of these
factors led to increasing differentiation among the agricultural
households. This may have been more marked in one region that
in another, but it certainly influenced all countries. Variations
had less influence on the emergence of new types that will
be described below than the scope of their existence.