Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In Louisiana it was observed that many small farmers survived over long periods of time, while others with similar farm resources did not. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the social and economic factors affecting the degree of success of small farmers. A major objective was to compare two methodologies used in defining and evaluating success on a small farm. The farm business approach as measured by economic performance (quantitative) was compared to the family well-being approach as measured by socio-economic factors (qualitative to determine similarities and differences in classifying successful and nonsuccessful farms. The literature was examined for theoretical and empirical evidence and 21 success characteristics were selected as factors used to discriminate between successful and nonsuccessful farmers. Cluster analysis (socio-economic criterion) and "net returns per acre" (objective criterion) were used to group and classify farms into successful and nonsuccessful groups. Groups derived from cluster analysis and "net returns per acre" were entered into discriminant analysis models to determine which success variables discriminated between successful and nonsuccessful groups. The results of the study showed that the set of success variables discriminated between farms classified successful and nonsuccessful for both success criteria. Also, the study showed that classifying farms by an economic success criterion could be improved by combining both social and economic variables. Farms classified by an economic success criterion were reclassified using social variables and the economic variables not used to define the economic criterion. This indicates that economic success was related to social characteristics. There were three variables found to be important to policy makers in designing programs to improve the plight of small farmers and increase their opportunities for success, based on either success criterion: age, education, and market value of farm buildings. A farmer's chances of being classified as successful increased as education and value of farm building increased. The relationship of success with operator's age is ambiguous. A farmer's chances of being classified as successful decreased as age increased based on the socio-economic criterion and increased as age increased based on the economic criterion. Based on the results of this study, whether success is defined subjectively using a statistical tool such as cluster analysis or objectively based on economic performance the most effective way of evaluating and classifying success is to incorporate both economic and social variables as discriminators between successful and nonsuccessful.