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Agricultural structure and farmers’ interconnections with rural communities

T. Besser (Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland)
C. Jurt (Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland)
S. Mann (Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 6 March 2017




In the context of rural development, the question how farmers are interconnected with local rural communities is crucial, as farmers historically have played a key role in rural areas, always shaped by the cultural-systemic context in which they acted. The purpose of this paper is to explore this connection in North-East (NE) Germany and Switzerland, two countries whose agricultural systems can be seen as diametrically opposed to each other with respect to their structure.


The authors conducted a survey on NE German and Swiss farmers to assess the connectivity between farms and rural communities in terms of the farm managers’ perceptions of their social networks, social support, sense of belonging, and active involvement in organizations.


The results show commonalities and differences between both study regions. Smaller farms are characterized by strongly locally based networks and a higher sense of community belonging, whereas larger farms rather have networks with strong ties outside the local dimension. Moreover, farmers’ local origin and farm diversification are positively associated with strengthening the connection between farms and local communities. Off-farm work is a means for this connection only in NE Germany.


This paper contributes to the discussion about adverse effects of farming scale and corporate farming on community well-being by simultaneously delivering insights into two structurally different agricultural systems. At the same time the approach allows for a comparison between the systems.



This research was made possible through funds from the Swiss National Fund. Special thanks for technical and conceptual assistance to Daniel Hoop and Dr Andreas Kohler of the Agroscope ISS Agricultural Economics team.


Besser, T., Jurt, C. and Mann, S. (2017), "Agricultural structure and farmers’ interconnections with rural communities", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 362-376.



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