Diversification: panacea for smallholders?

The growing number farmers looking for ways to supplement their income have a number of options. Some choose to increase the scale of current activities. Others are diversifying into activities like agro-tourism, wildlife management, care activities and the processing and sale of farm products. This approach, now practised by thousands of Dutch farmers, is no cure-all for smallholders, however. It is noticeable that fewer of the 25 thousand smallest farms are diversifying compared with average sized Dutch farms. Diversification is most common among farms which are about average in terms of economic size.

Agro-tourism by size of farm, 1999

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Holidaymakers can choose from some 1,200 Dutch farms offering accommodation, the equivalent of one in one per cent of farms in the Netherlands. This form of agro-tourism is unevenly spread across the Netherlands. While in half of Dutch municipalities there is not one farm offering accommodation, tourists in Veere in the province of Zeeland can choose from nearly one hundred addresses. Just over 21 percent of farms in this municipality offer holiday accommodation.

Some 900 farms have a reception area for tourists and nearly 1,900 offer storage facilities for caravans, boats, etc. or stabling for animals. In all, nearly 3.5 percent of farms and horticultural holdings carry out activities in the field of tourism. Nearly 22 percent of these businesses are among the 25 thousand smallest farms in the Netherlands.


More than 4,700 farms have management contracts with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Fishery and national wildlife organisations to protect and develop wildlife. Only 15 percent of these farms belong to the 25 thousand smallest: this form of diversification too, is more often practised by the larger Dutch farms.

Diversification by farm size, 1999

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Sales of farm products

Another option for farmers who want to diversify is the sale of agricultural products. More than 3,000 farms sell farm products, including one thousand which sell processed products. Most farms selling products sell unprocessed products such as flowers, potatoes and apples. These activities are also less common among the smallest farms. Only 11 percent of farmers who process or sell produce can be counted among the 25 thousand smallest farmers.

Cor Pierik