Is the Small Family Farm a Thing of the Past? The Answer May Surprise You

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service tracks trends in the size and production of the country's farms. Even though the size of the average farm has steadily increased, "there are more small farms than ever."
August 13, 2013, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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As you may imagine, industrialized agribusiness along with gains in productivity and the rise of contracts have worked to steadily increase the average size of America's farms, finds the USDA's report.

Yet, writes Lydia DePillis, "[e]ven while the average size of farms is going up, there are more small farms than ever, especially in small states with farmland preservation programs like Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Community-supported agriculture, plus the local and organic food movement, are starting to show up in the numbers. It’s the mid-sized farm, between 100 and 500 acres, that’s disappearing."

"And here’s the second thing that’s wrong about our understanding of the disappearance of family farms: 96.4 percent of the crop-producing farms in the U.S. are owned by families, and they represent 87 percent of all the agricultural value generated (non-family owned farms are defined as “those operated by cooperatives, by hired managers on behalf of non-operator owners, by large corporations with diverse ownership, and by small groups of unrelated people”)," she adds. "That hasn’t changed since about 1996."


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Published on Sunday, August 11, 2013 in The Washington Post
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