Low-input farming systems - high in biodiversity - are often characterized by: a) cropping activities alongside livestock production, increasing small-scale biodiversity; b) their setting, amongst natural features, such as mountains, semi-deserts and coasts; c) their scale, usually covering extensive areas; and d) their central reliance on livestock, whose grazing activities maintain a diverse and spatially and temporally dynamic mix of grasses, herbs and shrubs, critically influenced by stocking density.
Traditional farming may be considered low intensity in terms of chemical inputs and productivity but it is often high intensity in terms of human labour. For these systems to survive the farmers and their families have to want to continue to live and farm in what are often difficult conditions.
The vision that includes nature as an essential component of the countryside is one in which the greater proportion of the land surface will comprise a diversity of low-intensity farm systems together with large tracts of unenclosed land sustaining extensive pastoralism. This is not a vision which denies intensive production, but this may become confined to regions of naturally high productivity, in which increasingly tight management of pesticides and fertilisers is combined with technological research and development into management methods which will limit their necessity.
2. Low-output small farmers are often regarded as economically inefficient because their production is small - although, if environmental costs were taken into account, they could be described as efficient low-input/low-output systems.