Austrian agriculture is characterised by a high share of alpine farming, a relatively high share of small farms, as well as a high percentage of organic farming. Tourism is an important asset in Austria’s economy and is strongly linked with agriculture, with around 10.000 farms offering accommodation on-farm. Agriculture comprises about 2% of the Austrian economy.
As of 2013, there were around 166.000 farms in Austria, counting both full-time and part-time farms. The number of farms decreased by 50% between 1950 and 1999, and by 30% between 1995 and 2005. Austria’s share of part-time farms is quite high at 55%, and the area they occupy is at around 22% of the utilized agricultural area (UAA). The average farm size is 45 ha for full-time and 17,6 ha for part-time farms (1).
The total utilized agricultural area is around 2 727 000 ha (87% of the overall territory, including forestry):
Farmland: 1.364.000 ha
Permanent pasture: 1.297.000 ha
Wine: 45.000 ha
Forest: 3.428.000 ha
It is important to note that around 70% of the UAA is in mountainous areas.
In 2010, around 414.000 people were officially working in agriculture (including part-time workers), meaning a decrease of 28% from the decade before. Approximately 5% of the working population are employed in the agricultural sector, forestry and fishing (2012).
Around 34% of farms are run by women. It should be noted that this share increases with age, probably due to women taking on the farms when their husbands retire; this share also decreases with farm size.
The average age of Austrian farmers is 55 years for female and 50 years for male farmers. In 2013, approx. 10% of farmers were under 35 years old, compared to roughly 20% of farmers being between 55 and 65 years old; the share of farmers older than 65 is 12%.
The share of organic farms in Austria’s utilized agricultural area is the highest in the EU at 20%. The quick growth of organic farming in the early 1990s is connected with the coinciding availability of subsidies, strengthening of consumer patriotism in connection with Austria joining the EU, a timely development of organic product lines in retail chains, and a strong organic producers’ association (2). In recent years, the growth of organic farming has somewhat stagnated, with small increases occurring mostly in wine and fruit production.
Direct marketing is an important aspect of Austrian farming, with around 27% of farmers engaged in direct marketing and has accounted for an increased share of farm income with recent trends towards professionalization (1).
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is growing as a concept in Austria. The first consumer-producer initiatives and direct selling was established in the 1980s (2), and according to the association Gartenpolylog, who support and promote community gardens and community agriculture, there are currently 20 or more CSA projects in Austria. Furthermore, there are more than 50 food co-ops, with numbers increasing continuously both in an urban and a rural setting.
In Austria, the regular agricultural census does not cover information on farm succession, so there are no official numbers on how many farmers have already identified their successors. According to a 2015 study (3), however, no definite successor had been identified in around 30% of cases. The main reasons named by the respondents included: the lack of potential successors in the family (including childlessness), not having thought about the issue of farm succession, and potential successors (i.e. usually children) being unwilling to take over the farm.
(1) Grüner Bericht (2016)
(2) Schermer (2015)
(3) Quendler (2015)
Full references are provided in the Resources section.