Family farmers are those who own and operate a farm as a family business, with eligibility for government benefits and special labeling laws. The farm must generate enough income to cover expenses and can be passed down through generations. Financial assistance and community subsidies are available.
A family farmer is an individual who works on a farm owned and operated as a family business by family members, including people such as parents, siblings, children, cousins and grandparents. Family farms are eligible for certain government benefits, and there may be advantages to filing taxes and other legal documents with this status. A family farmer can also belong to collectives and community organizations that promote family farming and advocate for their members.
Family farms can be passed down through generations, although a family can also acquire a farm and start running it as a business. The farm must be family owned and operated, although it is possible to hire full-time labor to help out on a large family farm, or to use seasonal labor during harvest time and other important times of the year. Several generations can work on the property and it is possible to see housing for several family members on the farm. The family farmer manages daily operations and may live on site.
To qualify as a family farm, it must be run as a business, not a hobby, homestead or country home. This means that the family farm must generate enough income to cover operating expenses, including costs for veterinary bills, seeds, equipment, etc. If the farm is doing well, payments to family members may also be available, usually offered on a scale depending on position in the business. A family farmer can rely on these payments, or he can run a separate business to meet his own needs.
Family farms can be managed as individual properties, business partnerships between family members, or family businesses. If the company does not belong to the family or has a majority shareholder outside the family, it will no longer be a family farm and cannot be treated as such under the law. Farms that meet these criteria are eligible for government assistance, incentive programs for family farms, and special labeling laws in some regions, where family farms can have their own label insignia to alert customers to the origin of their produce. .
Running a farm can be financially challenging. A family farmer may not have access to the corporate resources that very large farms use to sustain themselves and may rely on grants, loans and other financial assistance at various times of the year. Niche farms like organic farming have to pay for certifications to be able to use special labelling, and that can be expensive. Benefits for family farms can include access to limited markets, community subsidies, participation in community organizations, and special treatment under the law for taxes and bankruptcy proceedings.