It is hardly news that Swiss peasants have been abandoning farming in recent decades but the phenomenon increased even further in 2013. By the end of last year, there were 2.4% fewer farms than were worked in 2012, particularly smaller farms of between 5 and 20 hectares. On the other hand, the number of farms with more than 30 hectares grew by 2.5%.
According to the latest official figures, “the disappearance of farms has allowed the expansion of those that remain. The average farm size is now 19 hectares compared to 17 hectares in 2005.”
Swiss farms have traditionally been family-owned, although farm workers increasingly tend to come from outside the family and are often foreign labourers. There has been a general erosion of employment in agriculture with women now numbering nearly one-third of the total workforce and occupying two-thirds of part-time jobs. However, only 5% of farm managers are women.
Livestock farmers continue to switch to poultry in a trend that began in 1990 as pig farming declined. The number of cattle remains stable, but dairy farming, the hallmark of Swiss agriculture, has declined by 2.3%. The one bright spot is bio farming which experienced an above average growth of 12.1% in 2013.