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Authors: Prosperi P., Galli F., Fastelli L., Grando S., Ferreira A.J., Palmioli L. and Brunori G.
Affiliation: Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment – University of Pisa, Italy

Topic: Assessing small farm resilience within adapting business models

Keywords: Small scale farming; Farm resilience; New business models; Community resilience; Local food systems.


In a global context of increasing concern for the unsustainability of the food system, small farms’
role is acknowledged to have positive effects on food security, community development and multiscale
resilience. Despite economic and environmental uncertainties, and the increasing
abandonment of rural areas, small farms still produce nearly 80 per cent of food globally. The
international community is focusing attention on small agricultural realities as driving forces to face
the global crisis. However, a supporting policy design needs to address small farms’ landscapes that
are extremely diverse with respect to the context-specific adaptation of business models. This work
aims to assess how small farms, in two regional contexts of central Italy, have adjusted their
entrepreneurial activity to changing socio-ecological and economic conditions. Small farms’
resilience has been measured through a set of indicators that help identifying the role of different
components of their business models through a holistic and multidimensional approach exploring
how small farmers carry out their business activity. Within the framework of the Horizon 2020
project ‘SALSA’ (http://www.salsa.uevora.pt/en/) a quantitative analysis on 40 small farms has been
combined with qualitative and participatory research. It emerged that various social, ecological and
economic components are differently embedded in small farms’ business models and, therefore,
contribute to small farms’ resilience in different ways, whether they adapt towards place-based
business models or conventional business strategies. A strong context-specific approach allowed
structuring the architecture of new business models, positioning small farms in the socio-territorial
context and understanding significant differences between groups of farms in the sample and their
potential to increase resilience. Beyond contributing to value creation and competitive advantage,
implementation of adapted business models by small farms may enable them to contribute to the
resilience and sustainability of social, community and ecological contexts.

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