As the main force of new agricultural management entities, the high-quality development of family farms requires a good interaction between specific practice and theoretical research. Since the release of the No. 1 Central Document in 2013, family farms have become a research hotspot for many scholars, and the research content is highly consistent with the direction of the central policy. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the development context, hotspot evolution and frontier trends of family farm research in China. Taking the academic papers published on Chinese core journals, CSSCI and CSCD source journals in the CNKI database from 2012 to 2021 with term including “family farms” as the research objects, this paper uses CiteSpace software to systematically sort out and visualize the core authors and key literature, research hotspots and core systems, hotspot evolution and frontier trends of family farm research. The following conclusions are drawn. (1) The research on family farms in China is in the ascendant, and has experienced an outbreak period from 2012 to 2014, a peak period from 2015 to 2017, and a stable period from 2018 to 2021; the core forces engaged in family farm research are prominent and emerging forces engaged in family farm research are active, but the cross-institutional cooperative research needs to be strengthened; the key literature has formed a complete research system of “basic theoretical discussion-realistic practice exploration- background fitting in the new era”. (2) The research hotspots of family farms present a network structure of “intensive centers, multi-point outbreaks, and wide expansion”, and have obvious policy orientation; the various hotspots are comprehensively intersected, mutually promoted and integrated, and a core system consisting of four major sections, “new agricultural management entities”, “land transfer and moderate scale management”, “modern agricultural endowments” and “rural revitalization strategy”, is formed. (3) The emphasis of family farm research at each stage is different, but the context is successive. The research content has gradually expanded from the transformation of traditional small farmers, the cultivation of new agricultural management entities, farmland transfer and moderate scale management to the analysis of the influencing factors and economic performance evaluation of the development of family farms. At the same time, scholars are actively carrying out practical and applied research on the high-quality development of family farms under the background of rural revitalization and agricultural and rural modernization in the new era. Among them, “operational performance”, “rural revitalization”, “separating rural land ownership rights, contract rights, and management rights” and “human capital” will remain the hotspots of family farm research in the short term. At present, the agreement between family farm research in China and cutting-edge economic theories is not sufficient, the data acquisition of empirical analysis is difficult and the research methods are limited, and the research perspective needs to be further expanded. Future family farm research needs to fully integrate cutting-edge economic theories, build a more era-oriented theoretical framework, and achieve multi-disciplinary, multi-field, multi-form, and cross-integrated development. At the same time, it is necessary to summarize China’s experience in the development of family farms based on typical samples, and to improve the theory, so as to contribute Chinese wisdom to the development of family farm theory and provide a reference for the practice of family farms around the world. In addition, data sources should be actively expanded, the empirical analysis methods of family farm research should be continuously improved, and the research perspective should be broadened in line with the background of the development of family farms (common prosperity, rural revitalization, agricultural and rural modernization, digitization, green and low carbonization, intelligence, networking, etc.).