Tracking 20-Year Trends in Vegetable Farm Size

As part of our ongoing examination of USDA’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, we turn our eyes to vegetable farms sizes.

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To better see farm-size trends, we divided operations into three groups:

  • Less than 100 acres (small farms)
  • Between 100 and 1,000 acres (medium farms)
  • More than 1,000 acres (large farms)

We compared the number of farms in each group to the total acres each group harvested more than 20.

There are now a lot more small farms, but they’re harvesting fewer acres on average (6.8 acres each in 2017, compared to 14.5 acres each in 1997). Large farms are holding relatively steady compared to 20 years ago (there are only 237 more large farms today compared to 1997), but the number of acres they’re harvesting skyrocketed 65%.

These trends are true for all of agriculture, according to USDA. It pointed out the 273,000 smallest farms (1 to 9 acres) make up 0.1% of all farmland, while the 85,127 largest farms (2,000 or more acres) make up 58%. It also notes one in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience.

Caught in the middle, medium farms’ numbers are gradually dropping. But the number of acres this group harvested has been highly volatile.