Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of
Marit S. Haugen and Jostein Vik*
Centre for Rural Research
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
N-7491 Trondheim, Norway
Fax: +47 73591275
Abstract: Recent trends indicate that more farmers will diversify their
activities, leading to ‘pluriactivity’. Farmers that develop their farming
enterprise by building tourism businesses based upon the resources of the farm
can be seen as farm entrepreneurs who are entering the service sector. Based on
a representative statistical data set from a survey conducted in 2006, where
1677 farmers responded to a broad set of questions, this paper identifies the
characteristics of farm-based tourism and farmers as tourism entrepreneurs.
Furthermore, this paper explores the impact of the additional activities
associated with farm-based tourism for both the farm economy and the work
situation for the farm household. The data set presents a unique opportunity to
combine sociocultural data with data on alternative farm economic activities in
the form of tourism.
Keywords: farm-based tourism; pluriactivity; farm entrepreneurs; farm
diversification; portfolio entrepreneurship.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Haugen, M.S. and Vik, J.
(2008) ‘Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism’, Int. J.
Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.321–336.
Biographical notes: Marit S. Haugen is a Doctor Polit in Sociology from the
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. She
is a Research Manager and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Rural Research
in Trondheim. Her research themes focus on work, life quality, images of the
rural life and rural tourism. She has published in international journals and
books in the area of gender issues in agriculture and rural communities.
Jostein Vik is a Doctor Polit in Political Science from the Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. He is a Senior
Researcher at the Centre for Rural Research in Trondheim. Current research
interests include pluriactivity and farm diversification, and rural governance.
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
Owing to agricultural policy reforms, changing social, political and economic conditions
for farming, and the development of new global markets, many Norwegian farm families
have turned to pluriactivity and diversification to secure their income. While pluriactivity
includes income generated outside of the farm through off-farm employment, farm
diversification can be described as a farm-centred income-generating activity (Evans and
Ilbery, 1992, p.86). Diversification as a strategy for greater economic viability includes
transforming and often expanding upon farm activities by employing unconventional uses
of on-farm resources (Fuller, 1990), such as farm-based tourism.
Both pluriactivity and farm diversification have always been important aspects of
Norwegian farming (Almås, 2004). Studies indicate that more than half (59%) of all
Norwegian farmers engage in additional activities based on the farm and its resources
(Vik and Rye, 2006). On average, farm families gain half of their income from
nonfarming work, either off-farm employment or alternative farm enterprises, such as
services like farm tourism, contracting for other farmers or nonagricultural customers,
processing and direct sales. About one-third of farmers are engaged in alternative farm
enterprises which can be labelled as entrepreneurial (Rønning, 2002).
There are some discussions regarding the concept of entrepreneurship and
entrepreneurial skills in agriculture (de Wolf et al., 2007; McElwee, 2005). One
definition of entrepreneurship is presented in a Green Paper from the European
Commission (2003, p.6): “Entrepreneurship is the mindset and process to create and
develop economic activity by blending risk taking, creativity and/or innovation with
sound management, within a new or an existing organization.” This definition
encapsulates the economic activities in which many farmers are engaged. Carter
(1998) argues that farmers should be included in small business analyses of rural
entrepreneurship, as they are an important element of the small-business-owning
population. In addition to this, Vik (2005) suggests that, among farmers, entrepreneurs
are a distinct type of farmers characterised by a strategic interest in the creation of
additional activities on the farm that cannot be described as traditional farming. We hold
that farmers who move into farm-based tourism engage in a creative shift from farming to
service provision in which they are exposed to risks and new markets, and thereby they
are farm entrepreneurs.
Farm diversification is also closely related to ‘portfolio entrepreneurship’ whereby a
person or group engages in multiple business ownership (e.g., Westhead and Wright,
1998; Carter and Ram, 2003). Farmers starting additional businesses might therefore
be seen as portfolio entrepreneurs. In a study in the UK, Carter (1998) calculates that
21% of business owners in agriculture are portfolio entrepreneurs. Norwegian agriculture
is a sector where individual growth strategies are limited owing to a series of regulations
in order to avoid surplus production and to maintain the relatively small-scale structure of
the sector (Ministry of Agriculture, 1999). Milk quotas and concession requirements for
buying arable land are examples of regulations that limit the opportunities for individual
growth. Innovation and growth outside traditional agriculture are therefore encouraged
through the devolvement of grants for new business activities based on farm resources
(Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 2007), thus channelling farmers into entrepreneurial
activities. According to MacMillan (1986), portfolio entrepreneurship is particularly
relevant in sectors where individual growth is restricted. Thus, one can expect that
Norwegian farmers are particularly likely to use portfolio entrepreneurship as a strategy
for achieving growth.
The provision of tourist accommodation and recreational enterprises is an example of
an alternative use of the farm’s land, buildings and other assets (Gasson and Errington,
1993). For farm households, the diversification into tourism might present a challenge
owing to the combination of two separate, different but interlinked businesses (farming
and farm-based tourism). Conventional agriculture is associated with a ‘productivist’
ideology linked to the production of food and fibre (Burton, 2004), while farm-based
tourism is service based, producing accommodation, food and a variety of experiences
for visitors. While much literature has examined farm diversification and pluriactivity
among farmers, less focus has been on the entrepreneurs within farm-based tourism
and the challenges in combining conventional farming with tourism. This paper focuses
on entrepreneurial farmers offering activities and experiences within the growing
farm-based tourism industry. The term ‘farm-based tourism’ might include all tourism
and recreation enterprises located on working farms. In this paper, we use the term
‘farm-based tourism’ to refer to farm enterprises offering accommodation and/or
activities based on the farm resources (buildings, the land resources, the competences of
the farm family and other assets).
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 323
2 Farm-based tourism in Europe – an example of farm entrepreneurship
Farm-based tourism is not a new phenomenon, either in Norway or other western
countries (Dernoi, 1983; Busby and Rendle, 2000). In Norway, farm-based tourism traces
back to the 1870s when the European upper classes discovered Norwegian fjords and
valleys (Scarlett, 1921; Daugstad, 1999). In recent years, however, an increase in the
supply of farm-based tourism has been reported in many countries, such as the UK,
where official statistics show that tourism-related activities are the most common form of
diversification among full-time farmers (Sharpley and Vass, 2006).
Walford (2001) distinguishes between two types of factors – internal and external
– that might contribute to the decision of whether or not to diversify the farm. Internal
factors relate to the farm and farm family, and the external factors refer to the
socioeconomic and physical environment outside farming. In a study in England and
Wales, Ilbery and Bowler (1998) found that the farmers most willing to diversify were
those who ran larger farm businesses, with a higher net income and higher levels of
indebtedness. They were younger, had received formal agricultural training and had
children wishing to continue the farm business. Most of these findings are in accordance
with the resource-based approach to portfolio entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurs use
resources from existing businesses to start up new businesses and the start-up seems to
gain from the transfer of prior entrepreneurial experience (Alsos and Carter, 2006). A
related yet often overlooked question is whether the resource transfer is actually a
resource drain: For example, what effect does the new business have on the original
farming activity? Some studies have indicated that farmers might quit active farm
production when their tourist activity grows, as they find it difficult to combine the two
(Busby and Rendle, 2000; Brandth and Haugen, 2005). On the other hand, if the
diversification is a combined use of resources, one could expect diversifying farmers to
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
A number of researchers have been concerned with the gender issue of farming
and farm-based tourism. For instance, McGehee et al. (2007) studied the gendered
nature of the motivations behind agritourism entrepreneurship among farm families.
They found that women have a higher motivation to develop agritourism as a source of
entrepreneurial enterprise than their male counterparts. This is consistent with other
studies that recognise that in many cases, the farm-based tourism business is initiated
and run by women (Garcia-Ramon et al., 1995; Førde, 2004; Sharpley and Vass, 2006).
According to Girauld (1999 cited in Nilsson, 2002), women’s struggle for professional
status on the farm is a strong driving force for farm-based tourism in France, where
women have played a central role in its development (Nilsson, 2002). This has reportedly
brought husband and wife to a more equal status within the farm enterprise. In a
more recent study in Norway, Brandth and Haugen (2007) have found that farm-based
tourism is often a joint project where both husband and wife are involved in operating
the business, although each partner takes on different roles in the operation. The
entrepreneurial and managerial skills of both partners might be essential in developing
and operating this kind of farm-based enterprise.
As there are no systematic studies in Norway describing farmers who diversify
into tourism, this paper will explore farm-tourism entrepreneurialism and the impact of
the business on the traditional aspects of the farm. The paper examines three distinct
issues. First, the characteristics of farm-tourism entrepreneurs and the farm are identified.
Second, the paper examines the impact of farm-based tourism activities for the farm
household economy and the future strategies on the farm and the farm household.
Third, we address an often overlooked question: Does farm-based tourism imply a
resource drain from traditional farming, or does farm-based tourism complement rather
than compete with regular farm activities?
3 Data and methods
The following analysis is based on a statistically representative data set, which was
obtained through a postal survey of Norwegian farmers in 2006. The sample of farmers
was drawn from ‘The Norwegian Agricultural Producers Register’ and the questionnaire
was sent to a representative number (3092) of Norwegian farms (registered operators). A
total of 1677 farmers (54%) filled in and returned the questionnaire (for a more detailed
description of methods, see Vik and Rye, 2006). The survey questioned Norwegian
farmers on economic, social and cultural issues, including farm and farm household
demographics, characteristics of the farm, economic activities, social and political
attitudes, and future plans. Farmers, in this context, are defined as persons who are main
operators on a farm with a size of 0.5 hectare or more.
As the main operator of the farm in the majority of cases is male, there is a male bias
in the sample. Only 14% of the main operators are women. However, the questionnaire
also includes questions about the partner. Therefore the data also provide information
about the partner and the farm household.
The tourism entrepreneur variable is computed on the basis of three variables in
the material. The respondents were asked whether they alone, their partner alone or
both were involved in a set of activities. Those who have reported that they were
involved in “lodging (accommodation) on the farm”, “food-serving on the farm”,
or “adventure-activities, guiding or other tourism activities” were included in the
‘farm-tourism entrepreneur’ category (N 136), while the other farmers were labelled
‘other farmers’ (N 1541).
The data set has one particular limitation. Since the sample population consists of
registered operators of farms, meaning that they conduct agricultural activities on the
farm, farm-tourism entrepreneurs who have quit farming are not included in the data set.
Our results can therefore only be generalised to those engaged in active farming.
Table 1 shows that the most common activity among farm-tourism entrepreneurs
is farm-based accommodation, which is consistent with the findings in Evans and
Ilbery’s (1992) study. Another finding is that the newest activities are serving meals
and providing adventure activities. This reflects broader trends in tourism, implying
a stronger focus on culture and experiences.
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 325
Table 1 Distribution of types of farm-based tourism activities and mean years since start-up
Type of farm-based tourism activities N*
Adventure activities, guiding or other
Food-serving on or by the farm
85 5,5 7
Note: *The total number exceeds the total of 136 farms because some farms have
more than one type of activity.
4 Characteristics of farm-tourism entrepreneurs and their farm business
This section deals with these questions: Who are the farm-tourism entrepreneurs and
how do they differ from other farmers? These key questions are asked in order to
understand when, why and how diversification into farm-based tourism takes place. To
answer these questions we focused upon background variables (Table 2), comparing
farmers who are tourism entrepreneurs and those who are not.
One interesting finding is that the share of women farmers on farms with tourism
activities is as high as 20.3%, while it is 13% among other farmers. In the total
sample, the percentage of female operators is 14%, which corresponds to the share of
registered women farmers in Norway. As in most Western countries, Norwegian farm
operators are mainly men. However, the gender of the main operator of the farm might
not reveal who is involved in these additional farm-related activities. Looking into the
gender distribution in the various tourist activities, another interesting pattern is revealed:
Women are more likely to be involved in accommodation and food-serving activities
than in adventure activities. On the variable ‘food-serving’, farm women are involved in
95% of the cases, while women on the farms providing ‘lodging/accommodation’ are
involved in 74% of the cases. On farms providing ‘adventure activities, guiding or other
tourism activities’, women are somewhat less involved at 53%. In sum, the pattern
reveals that there are more women as main operators on farms engaged in tourism, and
many women are involved in actual tourist activities. Yet the actual involvement
in tourist activities is somewhat ‘gendered’ along traditional lines: women are more
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
engaged in accommodation and food-serving than in adventure activities, which are
found to be ‘male coded’ (Brandth and Haugen, 2007). Finally, tourist activities on
farms, to a large degree, are activities men and women do together. Evidently, the
tourism business demands flexibility regarding time use and the types of tasks necessary
to the running of the farm (Brandth and Haugen, 2007). That farm-based tourism is
largely family based is supported by the fact that tourism entrepreneurs are more likely to
be married than other farmers. Among tourism entrepreneurs, close to 92% are married or
cohabiting, compared to 83% of the other farmers.
Table 2 Background variables of farm-based tourism entrepreneurs and other farmers
N % N %
Married or cohabiting
Single or separated
Higher education (university,
college or higher)
Yes, at university level
Yes, at college level
Table 2 reveals that there is a significant difference between farm-tourism entrepreneurs
and the other farmers in educational level. As many as one-third of the farm-tourism
entrepreneurs have attained a high level of education, compared to one-fifth of the other
farmers. It is also interesting to note that the tourism entrepreneurs, to a larger degree
than other farmers, have received an agricultural education. An agricultural education
indicates a strong occupational identity within farming, and hence an agricultural basis
for farm-tourism entrepreneurs (we will return to this later). The educational level among
farm-tourism entrepreneurs seems to be high, and this is probably one of the success
factors in making a profitable business within tourism.
Unlike other studies, we found little age difference between tourism farmers and the
others. The average age among farm-tourism entrepreneurs is 51.9 and the average age of
other farmers is 50.4. However, we see that the variance in age is smaller among the
tourism entrepreneurs. The youngest tourism entrepreneur in our sample was 31 years
old, while the youngest farmer among the other farmers was 23 years old. This suggests
that tourism activities may not be something that one starts up at a very young age.
4.1 The farm
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 327
The farming activity is the basis for the farm-tourism entrepreneurs’ livelihood.
Regarding the main type of production among the farm-tourism entrepreneurs when
compared with other farmers, two characteristics are particularly striking (Table 3).
Compared to other farmers, tourism entrepreneurs are more frequently dairy farmers.
Dairy farming is the most important full-time farm activity in Norway, and it is the
activity most commonly associated with professional farming (Almås, 2004; Vik, 2005).
Second, only 8% of tourism entrepreneurs have grain production as their main activity,
while grain production was the main form of agricultural production in 22% of the other
farms. More than 73% of the farm-tourism entrepreneurs have farms based on dairy and
livestock production. These findings suggest that farm-based tourism is an additional
activity among full-time, professional farmers. This may have to do with the fact that
tourism is an activity that requires a continuous presence on the farm, and this is
more likely in dairy and livestock farms. The transfer and utilisation of the farm
household’s labour and time resources are a critical aspect of farm-based tourism. The
less labour-intensive forms of production, such as grain growing, is a part-time activity
in Norway – even in large farms, grain producers commonly have off-farm jobs. Our
findings reflect that tourism activities are difficult to combine with off-farm jobs.1
Table 3 Main products and farm size (hectares of cultivated land) among farm-based tourism
entrepreneurs and other farmers
Main products and farm size N % N %
Main farm product
Other types of production
Arable land (hectare)
24 131 < 0.001
Table 3 also presents data on farm size. The average size of Norwegian farms is
20.2 hectares. The clearest finding is that farm-based tourism is less likely on the
larger farms. On farms larger than 25 hectares, which is rather large in a Norwegian
context, the difference is statistically significant. We see that there are some differences
between farm-tourism entrepreneurs and other farmers in other area groups as well,
but these are not statistically significant. However, the majority of farm-tourism
entrepreneurs operate farms between 10 and 25 hectares. These findings require separate
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
interpretations. It is generally not possible to make a living on a farm that is less than
10 hectares in size based on traditional farming alone; hence, the need for an additional
source of income seems evident. Even though off-farm employment is a more usual
‘growth strategy’ for economic viability among this group of farmers, the strategy of
starting additional activities is also a viable solution. Farms between 10 and 25 hectares
represent the average size for full-time dairy farms. Full-time dairy farmers might start
additional businesses on the farm in order to make the most of available resources,
including flexible labour resources on the farm.
4.2 Farmer or small-business manager
Starting an additional business on the farm might indicate a strong will to survive as
self-employed farmers. Another explanation might be that they want to create an
alternative to farm work for themselves and/or their partners, using their resources
(human capital and farm assets) and creativity to start a new enterprise based on
Having dealt with personal background variables and characteristics of the farm, the
next step is to consider whether farm-tourism entrepreneurs have different identities
according to farming and entrepreneurship. Peura et al. (2002) held that there is a
consistent difference between farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. In our study, two
questions addressed the issue of identity: whether respondents had an identity as a
farmer or another occupational identity, and whether they identified themselves as
small-business managers or not. Findings are presented in Table 4.
Table 4 Occupational identity among farm-based tourism entrepreneurs and other farmers
N % N %
Identity as small-business
6 4.4 79 5.2
Nearly two-thirds of the farm-tourism entrepreneurs identified themselves as farmers,
and in this respect they did not differ significantly from other farmers. The similarities
are also evident when assessing motives for becoming a farmer in the first place.
Among a series of motives for becoming a farmer, only one reason differed between
the groups. ‘A wish to be independent’ is slightly more important among the
farm-tourism entrepreneurs. This finding is in accordance with descriptions of the
‘entrepreneurial type’ emphasising self-efficacy and independence (Boyd and Vozikis,
1994). Farm-tourism entrepreneurs have a strong identity as farmers, with the earlier
assertion supported that farm-tourism entrepreneurs are more likely to be professional
farmers. This is also in line with the findings in Burton and Wilson’s study (2006),
showing that farmers maintain their agricultural identity despite engaging in many
other activities besides farming. There are, however, significant differences between
farm-tourism entrepreneurs and other farmers in whether they see themselves as
small-business managers. Around 76% of the farm-tourism entrepreneurs identified
themselves as small-business managers as opposed to approximately 60% of the
other farmers. This strengthens the impression of the farm-tourism operator as an
entrepreneurial type. These findings may be seen to support the hypothesis that the
farm-based tourism business is an aspect of an economic survival strategy – a
diversification activity which enables the farm household to continue as self-employed
agents rather than risking the loss of independence through taking an off-farm job.
From occupational identity, we now turn to the topic of economy, and explore the
economic differences between farm-tourism entrepreneurs and farmers that have not
entered the tourism industry.
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 329
4.3 Economic differences
The average income from farming among Norwegian farmers in 2006 was
Norwegian crowns (NOK) 144,700 (Budsjettnemda for jordbruket, 2007, p.103)2
or approximately 18,290 Euro. The average household income among Norwegian
farmers is between NOK 300,000 and NOK 400,000 (Statistics Norway, 2007a). There
are no substantial differences in either measure of income between farm-tourism
entrepreneurs and other farmers. Bearing in mind that the mean annual income for those
engaged in the processing industry was NOK 355,600 (Statistics Norway, 2007b), it is
clear that the average income from farming is low. As such, the need for additional
income for farmers seems apparent.
Income, as measured in financial accounting, is an objective measure. The personal
evaluation of income is clearly more subjective, but in our case more relevant for
understanding the strategic choice of the individual. Decisions to start additional farm
activities or other income-producing strategies are normally based on a personal or family
evaluation of the economy and economic prospects. Table 5 presents findings on the
variables ‘household income’, ‘satisfaction with income from farming’ and ‘satisfaction
with working conditions’. The latter might be partly related to satisfaction with income.
Table 5 shows that there is a significant difference between farm-tourism
entrepreneurs and other farmers regarding satisfaction with income from farming.
Although both groups are dissatisfied with farm income, farm-tourism entrepreneurs
are less satisfied. This finding supports the hypothesis that farm diversification into
tourism is a strategy for increasing the income. When it comes to satisfaction with
household income, both farm-tourism entrepreneurs and the other farmers are mostly
satisfied (both groups are on the positive side (higher than 5) of the scale). The
differences are marginal and not statistically significant. The same can be said about
satisfaction with working conditions. Thus, satisfaction with the overall situation may be
seen as high for both groups.
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
Table 5 Satisfaction* with income and working conditions among farm-based tourism
entrepreneurs and other farmers
N Score N Score
Income from farming
Note: *Respondents were asked to answer “How satisfied are you with the
following…?” on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is very unsatisfied and 10 is
The next step then is to explore what impact the farmers’ engagement in farm-based
tourism might have on future plans for the farm.
4.4 Impact of farm-tourism entrepreneurship
Studying the impact of farm-tourism entrepreneurship is far more complicated than
describing characteristics of farm-tourism entrepreneurs and their farms. We base our
analysis on the answers given by respondents to several questionnaire items relating
to future plans for investments and production developments. In this section, we will
also consider the impact of farm-based tourism on the type of strategic adaptations
Table 6 presents the responses to a number of questions about the farm strategies that
farmers imagine are likely to develop within the next five years.
When farmers were asked what they see as likely developments on their farms in the
next five years, most strategies were equally distributed among tourism farmers and
others. There are no significant differences between the groups when it comes to
production increases, production decreases, cost reductions, labour input or work outside
the farm. This is further supported by findings that reveal that there are no differences
in plans for investment in machinery, equipment and farm buildings. This indicates
that farm-based tourism does not have any significant impact on most major strategic
adaptations or long-term commitment to farming between the groups. There are
significant differences in only three of the farm development strategy variables.
Farm-tourism entrepreneurs are, more than other farmers, planning increased efforts in
cultural landscape maintenance, developing additional activities based on farm resources,
and increasing the level of processing and/or direct sale of farm products. These are
activities clearly associated with the tourism activities themselves and, as such, they
indicate a continued interest in the further development of the farm-based tourism.
In total, 35% of farm-tourism entrepreneurs aim to increase their cultural landscape
effort, compared with only 19% of other farmers. This result probably also reflects
the general importance of cultural landscape in Norwegian farm-based tourism.
Approximately 43% of the farm-tourism entrepreneurs will develop additional activities
based on farm resources, while only 15% of the other farmers will do the same. The main
difference though between farm-tourism entrepreneurs and the other farmers is the
continued priority given to the development of farm-based tourism, without any
significant effects on future prospects of traditional farm activities, positive or negative.
This is further confirmed by another question regarding future plans among farm-tourism
entrepreneurs. Table 7 presents the extent to which the additional activities will be
continued into the future.
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 331
Table 6 Most likely developments in the following five years
Most likely developments
N % %
Increase in production
Decrease in production
Increased labour input
Development of additional
activities based on
Processing and or direct sale of
To work more outside the farm
59 43.4 231 15.0 70.436 0.000
26 19.1 80 5.2 40.392 0.000
22 16.2 334 21.7 2.259 0.133
Table 7 Planned development within the next five years among farm-based
Farm-based tourism entrepreneurs
Additional activities based on farm resources
Same as today
No such activity/I will quit
Do not know
More than one-third will increase the additional activities. This supports Rønning’s
(2002, p.94) finding that alternative enterprises often start small. However, the
entrepreneurs perceive the work that they do as profitable as it increases the value of
the operation in the future. Slow growth, nurtured by the farm resources, is, as such, a
valid strategy. In addition, we see that 41% are planning to keep tourism activities at the
same level as today, while 12% are planning to reduce or quit the additional activities.
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
Several indicators above suggest that farm-based tourism does not have any particular
impact on the basic farming activities or future plans. Furthermore, it seems that many
farm-based tourism entrepreneurs are planning to keep up the tourism activity and/or
increase this activity. Resources are combined, but there is no resource drain. The
findings are partly contradictory to earlier studies that have found that farmers tend to
quit active farm production when their tourism activity grows, as they find it difficult to
combine the two (Busby and Rendle, 2000; Brandth and Haugen, 2005).3
What then are the economic impacts of farm-based tourism among Norwegian
farmers? Although one of the main motives for diversifying is the additional income to
ensure the survival of the farm business, many studies have demonstrated that farm-based
tourism contributes relatively little to farm incomes (Evans and Ilbery, 1992; Hjalager,
1996; Opperman, 1996). Farm-based tourism is commonly small-scale tourism with few,
if any, employed in addition to farm family members (McGehee et al., 2007), and in
many cases the market is highly seasonal. While these studies indicate small economic
significance of tourist activities in addition to farm income, our study shows that the
farmers themselves find the tourist activities economically significant. Table 8 shows the
farm-tourism entrepreneurs’ own evaluation of the economic impact on their households.
Table 8 Importance of income from additional activities among farm-based
Farm-based tourism entrepreneurs
Importance of income from additional activities N %
Important or very important
Little or no importance
Among farm-tourism entrepreneurs 43% report that the income from the diversified
activities is very important or important, 35% hold that it has some importance, and
22% report that the income has no or little importance. Table 8 presents a subjective
evaluation of economic importance. As we see it, this is sometimes more relevant than
more objective measures. First of all, any absolute measure must be interpreted, and
there are no standards for evaluating the significance of income. In the context of a
farm household, the additional income that ‘tops up’ the income from farming may very
well be the income that makes the household economy acceptable. In any case, the
evaluation of importance is left to the entrepreneurs themselves, and the finding is that,
for the largest proportion of them, the extra income gained from farm-based tourism
Throughout Europe, the agricultural sector is under considerable economic pressure.
At the same time, evidence from domestic and international research suggests that
farm-based tourism is growing. Thus, farm diversification is increasingly developing at
the interface between agriculture and tourism. Given the shift from farming to service
provision, it might be expected that this could be a challenging interface (Clarke, 1996;
Brandth and Haugen, 2007). However, research on farm-tourism entrepreneurs and on the
impact of farm diversification into tourism has been scarce. Based on a large-scale survey
of Norwegian farmers, we have explored two aspects of the interface between farm-based
tourism and farming. First, this article presented a series of findings on the characteristics
of farm-tourism entrepreneurs in Norway. Second, indicators of the impact of farm-based
tourism activities on the future plans of farmers, and such activities’ importance to the
household economy were presented.
The individual characteristics reveal that farm-tourism entrepreneurs have higher
levels of education than other farmers – both in relation to general education and
agricultural education. This highlights the importance of skills for entrepreneurship. The
study also shows that farm-based tourism is a household strategy rather than an
individual farmer strategy: The farm-tourism entrepreneurs are more commonly married
compared to other farmers, and farms with women operators are more likely to
diversify into farm-based tourism than farms with men as main operators. Although
our study shows that farm women are involved in all the activities, it does not
support findings in other studies suggesting that farm-based tourism activities are
operated mainly by women. It is also shown that the farm-tourism entrepreneurs are
overrepresented among dairy and livestock farmers. The study reveals that in several
key characteristics, the farm-tourism entrepreneurs do not differ significantly from
farmers in general. Both groups have a strong occupational identity as farmers. To a large
degree, farm-tourism entrepreneurs are engaged in the types of farming that require
full-time professional involvement. However, farm-tourism entrepreneurs to a larger
degree see themselves as small-business managers than do other farmers. Several of
these findings support the hypothesis from the portfolio entrepreneurship literature that
entrepreneurial activity is easier when human and physical resources can be transferred
from an initial economic activity to another business activity (Westhead and Wright,
1998; Carter and Ram, 2003).
The study has shown that tourism entrepreneurship is considered important for
the household economy on the farm. The entrepreneurial farmers plan to increase or
sustain their activities in farm-based tourism, and this underlines the overall picture of
a growing sector. Another interesting finding is that farm-tourism entrepreneurs plan
to continue traditional farming in combination with these additional activities. There are
no differences between them and other farmers regarding future production changes
(increase or decrease). These findings indicate that farm diversification into tourism
is seen as a viable strategy to survive as farmers in a sector under pressure. It also
indicates that the combined use of resources is sustainable. We find no indications of a
The research presented in this article presents a descriptive analysis of important
characteristics of farm-based portfolio entrepreneurs that combine farming and tourism
activities. This provides useful insights into the backgrounds of farm-based tourism
entrepreneurs and the impacts of farm-based tourism entrepreneurship. However,
this research should be taken further in (at least) two directions, both emphasising
the complexity of farm-based tourism entrepreneurship. First, in-depth studies using
interviews and observations in farm-based tourism enterprises could reveal further
insights into the challenges and advantages of combining farming and tourism. Second,
statistical techniques that open the topic for further studies of the conditions (internal
Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 333
M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
and external) for succeeding in farm-based tourism should be employed. These
complementary approaches could take our knowledge of farm-based tourism one
The research is funded by The Research Council of Norway.
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Farmers as entrepreneurs: the case of farm-based tourism 335
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M.S. Haugen and J. Vik
1 Our material suggests that tourism entrepreneurs – both farmers and partners – are less likely
to have an off-farm job compared to other farmers. However, the findings are not statistically
significant and are not further reported in this article.
The reported income from the farm of about NOK 144 000 is not weighted by production
level, farm size or type of production. Thus, this number does not reveal anything of the
earnings from full-time employment in agriculture.
On this matter, it is a possible source of bias in our material. Since those who have already
quit farm production are no longer recorded as farmers, they are omitted, by default, from the
population addressed in our study. However, the characteristics of those currently in the
sample give no indication of an increased tendency to quit farming.