The USDA 2007 Census of Farms documented a net increase of 75,810 US farms in 2007. USDA characterizes the changes seen this way. "Compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm." The Census observes an acceleration of the trend towards larger numbers of small farms, and more very large farms. The losers in this trend? There are fewer mid-sized operations. The charts presented below show where the economic break points are in this trend.
As you might have guessed, many of the new farms counted are so-called "residential" or "lifestyle" operations - '21 percent of operations are retirement farms, which have sales of less than $250,000.' If you can't get a job in the factory, raising produce or animals to sell locally could be much more than the farmer's 'second choice'. It could be the best choice there is for society.
Overall economic patterns are shifting.
Being wired means much more than having nice fences. According to the just released Ag Census numbers, internet access is now available to 57 percent of all farms; that's up 7 percentage points from the 2002 Census of Agriculture. And, 58 percent of farms with Internet have high-speed access.
With the new economic stimulus package being considered by Congress, it is possible that rural broadband penetration will increase greatly, allowing more farmers to enjoy TreeHugger. Much easier, then, to keep young farmers productive! (joking again)
Sidebar: interesting to see that the areas of the country with lowest levels of rural internet penetration overlap with areas served by TVA, a government created entity aimed at getting rural electrification going after the Great Depression.
Organic Production Survey is coming
USDA reports that special survey will be conducted in the Spring 2009;
and results will be available in late 2009.
All citations and image credits, above, are via USDA, Results of the 2007 Census of Agriculture
More on agricultural trends from TreeHugger archives.
Vertical (Diagonal?) Farm from Work AC in NYC
Futurama Farming in New York
Community Supported Agriculture: Hiring a Personal Farmer
Wayback Machine 1984: The Future of Agriculture
Detroit Charity Turns Wasteland into Farms
China Issues "Red Alert" Drought Emergency As Jobless Factory ...