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farm fragmentation

  Discontiguous patterns of landholding, such that a farm is not composed of a single unit of land, but rather a scattering of fields which increases production costs, particularly for highly mechanized forms of agriculture. Historically, fragmentation resulted from the fossilization of medieval field patterns; inheritance practices amongst family and peasant producers, which divided a farm between sons; and the cumulative effect of piecemeal land purchases (King and Burton, 1982; cf. field systems; inheritance systems). In the twentieth century it also became associated with major political upheavals and the break-up of large estates through programmes of land reform, such as in Portugal or Mexico.

In the post-war period these fragmented patterns of landholding have come to be regarded as a hindrance to agricultural modernization and agrarian capitalism, and become the subject of government policies of land consolidation in advanced industrial and developing countries, or land collectivization in the formerly communist countries. In Europe, for example, France established a regional network of land management banks (SAFERs) in the 1960s to buy up and re-allocate farmland (Jones, 1989).

In the latter part of the twentieth century farm fragmentation has taken on a new meaning, referring to the break-up of farmholdings as a result of land development and road building pressures; the growth of short-term forms of land tenancy and the rising number of small farms being put out of business by competition, foreclosure or lack of a successor (e.g. Kopeva et al., 1994; Pfeffer and Lapping, 1994). While these problems can and do occur in diverse geographical circumstances, they are especially acute in the rural-urban fringe. (SW)

References Jones, A. 1989: The role of SAFER in agricultural restructuring: the case of Languedoc-Rousillon, France. Land Use Policy 6: 249-61. King, R. and Burton, S. 1982: Land fragmentation: notes on fundamental rural spatial problems. Progress in Human Geography 6: 475-94. Kopeva, D., Mishev, P. and Jackson, M. 1994: Formation of land market institutions and their impacts on agricultural activity. Journal of Rural Studies 10/4: 377-85. Pfeffer, M. and Lapping, M. 1994: Farmland preservation, development rights and the theory of the growth machine: the view of planners. Journal of Rural Studies 10 (3): 233-48.



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