The aim of this collection of papers of the "Research Programme on Farm Structures and Pluriactivity - Rural Change in Europe" in this reader is to give a comprehensive survey on essential analytical papers and of the different stages of the project. The major objective of this international research programme was to provide an assessment of the structural changes and of agrarian structural policy. The study carried out in 24 study areas in Western Europe considered the regional contexts crucial to the development chances respectively difficulties for farm households. In most European areas pluriactivity is the dominant feature of farm households and this stresses the importance of linkages to non-agricultural sectors.
Main issues and results covered by the papers are:
- Pluriactivity is a long-established phenomenon and not just the stage before withdrawing from agriculture. A large part of farm households have other gainful activities.
- Income from non-farming sources can be found throughout the farm size spectrum, though in proportional terms it appears to be more frequent among the smallest farms.
- Income levels are varying to a large extent. A rather clear notion of farm income, off-farm income and other income sources is needed to provide insights on the households'
- In order to study recent changes and development patterns a disaggregation of farm households into sub-groups which take into account not only the characteristics of the households themselves but also the economic environment is needed to provide sensible statements on different development paths.
The series of surveys that have been carried out in the research programme and a description on the methodological basis is given in the first chapter. International results have been published in three reports to the EC-Commission, and for the Austrian study areas in two specific reports:
Dax/Niessler/Vitzthum: Bäuerliche Welt im Umbruch
(research report No. 32 of the Federal Institute for Less-favoured and Mountainous Areas, Vienna 1993) dealing with qualitative aspects and household strategies, and
Dax/Loibl/Oedl-Wieser: Pluriactivity and Farm Structures
(research report No. 33 of the Federal Institute for Less-favoured and Mountainous Areas, Vienna 1995) summarising the empirical results of the two Austrian and comparing them with the other European study areas.
The reader publishes the edited original papers in English with a German abstract summarising the contents and core statements of each paper.