Rural communities and the future of Norway’s family farms

Family-based ownership of farms has a very long tradition in Norway, and current legislation is strengthening this tradition. However, some political parties aim to change this and liberalize the market for farm properties.

This will also open up opportunities for companies to buy farms, and the buyer will have fewer obligations. A possible change in legislation will probably not have a very strong impact immediately, but in a longer perspective it may challenge the family farm structure, especially in the best agricultural areas.

The next question is, will the families continue to run their small-scale farms? In Norway, farmers’ incomes are substantially lower than in other businesses and jobs. Young people therefore often prefer to have another occupation rather than taking over and running the family farm. This will lead to bigger farming units in the best areas and to farmland being set aside in the less favoured areas. That is also why it is important to support family farming in order to maintain food security based on national resources.

Family farming depends on the willingness and skill among farmers to cooperate and create income from markets. But food production based on the family structure is also important for consumers and society. Family farming therefore needs political, economic and legal support for its maintenance and development.

Supporting rural communities

In many rural areas, the agricultural activity performed by family farmers is the backbone of the community regarding settlement, economy, employment and social activity.

Agricultural production must take place where the land is. The farmer and his family are therefore more than any other activity linked to the community where the farm is located. The farmer boosts the local economy by his production and activity, but also indirectly by using local industry and services for his business and private life. Many other jobs in the community depend on family farms. The activity of one family farmer creates two to three further jobs.

In addition to their ordinary agricultural activity, many farmers provide different kinds of services both on the farm and outside it. This is also important for the community and the well-being of the residents.