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Organic farming grows as overall farm numbers dwindle

Published on 11/05/2020

The number of farms and farmworkers continues to shrink in Switzerland, as existing holdings become larger through mergers. Organic farming, on the other hand, is gaining in importance. 

Over the past 20 years almost a third of farms in Switzerland have disappeared. Last year, 50,038 businesses with a utilised agricultural area (UAA)of 1.05 million hectares employed 150,100 people. This corresponds to a drop in farms and employees of 1.6% and 1.5% respectively compared with the previous year, the Federal Statistical Office said on Monday. 

The cantons of Bern (10,254), Lucerne (4,494), St Gallen (3,904) and Zurich (3,258) still have the most farms, although 142 establishments in Bern alone gave up in the past year. There were also declines in Zurich (-88), Valais (-89) and Lucerne (-67). 

The statistical office said the proportion of farms with an area of more than 20 hectares has increased to 43% over the past 20 years. In 1999, only a quarter of the farms were this size. 


More farms are turning organic. Last year 7,284 were working according to organic guidelines, 3.6% more than in 2018. Organic farming is now practised on 16% of land. 

In 2019 the majority of the agricultural area consisted of natural meadows and pastureland (605,700 hectares or 58% of the total area). Arable farming was practised on 38% of the area. In addition, 13,400 hectares were vineyards and 7,000 hectares were orchards. 

The numbers of dairy cows (-1.7%) and pigs (-4.1%) fell, whereas poultry numbers rose (+2.5%). Sheep and goat stocks remained practically unchanged.