In the last few decades much has been said about the decline of small farmers and the belief that big corporations are gobbling up all the farmland, has become common. But the American family farm is still thriving in our modern age of technology. According to a recent report from the USDA, a stunning 99% of all farms in the United States are family farms. In fairness that percentage is based on the total number of farms regardless of size, but how much of the actual production do these farms account for? Surprisingly, they also are responsible for 90% of all the food grown in the nation.

And further to the surprise is that small family farms, those that earn under $350,000 per year, make up 90% of the total. And while those small farms only account for about one fourth of the total farm production, they are mostly well above the average household income and net worth levels. So most of them are doing well.

Of course that doesn’t mean that these families can rest easy. The report also assessed the financial risk these enterprises face and most of these small farms were at very high risk. Farming is always a risky venture with factors like weather and markets creating great uncertainty. That risk coupled with the fact that most small farms require year round work with long daily hours to keep them from failing, makes it clear that life on the farm is still a difficult one.

Perhaps that is why most of these farms do not rely solely on what they grow to survive. Interestingly many of these farms are dependent on off-farm income. In fact over 40% of them reported that they had a “major occupation” other than farming. The report doesn’t specify what that means in every case, but we assume it means these farmers are farming as a side profession or at least supplementing income with another profession. Oliver Douglas from the 1960’s hit TV show, “Green Acres,” would be very proud of today’s American farmer. Douglas was a New York City lawyer who grew tired of the rat race of the metropolis and decided to become a farmer instead.

There have been a lot of reports in the media over the past year about the growing number of millennial farmers. According to , the only age segment adding new farmers is the 25-34 year olds. But most farmers are still from the older generation. Almost two thirds of farmers are over 55 and over one third are over 65. And on the smaller farms there aren’t as many sons and daughters taking over for their parents. Only about 6% of farms are multi-generational according to the USDA report.

There is a sea change going on in America’s food supply as people demand organic, local and more environmentally friendly sources for what they eat. The tremendous rise in popularity of all things related to food has generated a fascination with how it is produced. This is especially true for millennials who mostly grew up only ever seeing their food in the supermarket and now want to remove the mystery and change problems they see in it. This all bodes well for the future of farming and farmers.

The Family Farm in America is Still in Business and Not Doing Too Badly
According to a 2017 USDA Report.

ARE GREEN ACRES IN STORE FOR AMERICAN FARMS?

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