| The 2007 Ag Census came out this week. I wrote up some info about American farms through history yesterday. In this diary, I am going to focus on the smallest farms - 1 to 9 acres. In 2007, farms 1-9 acres made up the largest percent of American farms that they have made up ever since at least 1964. In 1964, farms of this size made up 5.8% of all farms. They've grown as a percent of all farms since this time, with a slight dip in 2002. But in 2007, they made up 10.6% of all farms. These acreage encompassed by these farms make up only 0.1% of all American farmland.
The absolute number of farms 1-9 acres has increased too, from 182,581 in 1964 to 232,849 in 2007. This is a number that has gone up and down throughout time, reaching a low of 128,254 in 1974, but this is the highest number of farms of this size of any of the years measured since 1964.
In short - the good news about these smallest farms is that their numbers are up - there are now 53k more of these small farms than there were in 2002 - but the bad news is that they aren't actually making a living off the land.
So who are these farmers, and what's happening on their farms?
|In 2007, the average size of these 232,849 small farms was 5 acres. The average farm in this group had $29,489 in sales but $28,124 in expenses, leaving them with an average income of $2870.
Obviously if we're talking about averages, the average farmer can't make a living on a farm smaller than 10 acres. In fact - only 29.1% of these farms showed net gains during 2007. The rest showed losses. Of course, only 32.7% of these farmers listed their principle occupation as farming, so it seems like most of these farmers are busy with something else that makes them a living.
39.7% of these small farms made < $1000 in sales during 2007. Here is how much the rest of the farms made in sales, shown as a percentage of all farms 1-9 acres.
|Sales||% of Farms 1-9 acres|
The average sales may be $28,124 but clearly, over 90% of these farms made less than $25,000 in sales. And over 80% of them had less than $10,000 in sales! In other words, most people with under 10 acres aren't really using farming as a living. However, there is a discrepancy between the 32.7% who list their primary occupation as farming but only 10% who make over $25k in sales. That probably explains the 19.8% listed as "limited resource farms."
More information can be gained by seeing how these farms break down into categories:
Limited Resource Farms: 19.8%
Limited-resource farms have market value of agricultural products sold gross sales of less than $100,000, and total principal operator household income of less than $20,000.
Retirement Farms: 17.1%
Retirement farms have market value of
agricultural products sold of less than $250,000,
and a principal operator who reports being
Residential/Lifestyle Farms: 45.9%
Residential/lifestyle farms have market value of agricultural products sold of less than $250,000, and a principal operator who reports his/her primary occupation as other than farming.
(A total of 63% of these small farmers are either retired, or their main occupation is something other than farming.)
Farming occupation - lower sales: 11.4%
Farming occupation/lower-sales farms have market value of agricultural products sold of less than $100,000, and a principal operator who reports farming as his/her primary occupation.
Farming occupation - higher sales: 0.7%
Farming occupation/higher-sales farms have market value of agricultural products sold of between $100,000 and $249,999, and a principal
operator who reports farming as his/her primary
(1700 farms fall into this group. 3798 farms in this group made between $100k-$249k in sales. In other words, over half of the farms who make $100k-$249k in sales have a principle occupation other than farming, they are retired, or they are non-family farms.)
Large Family Farms: 0.7%
Large family farms have market value of agricultural products sold between $250,000 and $499,999.
(1622 farms are considered "Large Family Farms." 1926 farms made $250k-$499k. The 300 farms who made this much money but don't fall in this group must be non-family farms.)
Very Large Family Farms: 0.9%
Very large family farms have market value of agricultural products sold of $500,000 or more.
(Consider that 1.2% of these farms made $500k or more in sales. That's 2741 farms - and 2103 farms are considered "Very Large Family Farms." The other 600 or so farms that made over $500k must be non-family farms.)
Non-Family Farms: 3.5%
Nonfamily farms are farms organized as nonfamily corporations, as well as farms operated by hired managers.
Last, about 1.9% of these small farms are organic. This is actually a high number, given that only 0.9% of all farms of any size are organic.
By the way, how does one make millions on a farm under 10 acres (besides growing pot)? Well, this one kills me. 151 of these farms had over 500 cows. 1167 had more than 500 pigs. 32 had over 100,000 chickens for eggs. 850 had over 100,000 broilers. Those are an awful lot of critters to cram onto a small farm.