The Dwindling Percent Of American Family Farms

March 9, 2015, by Ken Jorgustin

american-family-farms

Today in the United States, fewer than 1 percent claim farming as an occupation and only 2 percent of Americans live on a farm. In my opinion this translates to a human systemic risk for the 98 percent of people who literally depend on them (and others) for their food.

But it gets worse…


 
Just 8.9 percent of American farms comprise approximately 75 percent of all farm sales revenue in the United States, illustrating how few farms provide the majority of production.

‘Very Large Family Farms’ with sales of $500,000 or more (4.6% of all farms)
‘Non-Family Farms’ – e.g. corporations (4.1% of all farms)

Data sourced from EPA.gov (‘Ag 101’) statistics of 2007
(demographics likely very similar today)

Number of Very Large Family Farms: 101,265
Number of Non-Family Farms: 91,177

 
While Americans source their food from many places (including lots from overseas), it seems somewhat remarkable that so few farms and so few people grow so much of our available farm product. Seems a bit risky.

 
The remaining 25% of farm product sales revenue come from these additional farm groups:

10% Large Family (sales between $250,000 and $499,999)
5% Farming Occupation -Higher Sales ($100,000 and $249,000)
3% Farming Occupation -Lower Sales (less than $100,000)
4% Residential /Lifestyle (who report a major occupation other than farming)
2% Retirement (whose operators report they are retired)
1% Limited Resource (<$100,000 sales, <$150,000 assets, household income <$20,000)   The number of residential / lifestyle farms were reported to be 801,844 which represents 0.3 percent or just 0.003 of all Americans.   As the farm population in the United States is dwindling, the age of the average farmer is rising. About 60 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 years old or older (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The average age of a 'principal operator' of a farm has increased to 57 years old. (USDA, Census of Agriculture). The dwindling and aging of Americas farms and farm population should lead to concerns about the long-term health of family farms and our overall systemic risk and growing dependency on fewer and fewer farming institutions.