The latest agriculture census data reveals a greater number of farms in the U.S. — just over 2.2 million in 2007, up from more than 2.1 million in 2002 — and about a 52% increase in overall property value, but the average size of farms has fallen to 418 acres from 441 acres over the same period.
About 59.8% of farms sold less than $10,000 worth of agricultural products in 2007, and only 16.2% sold more than $100,000. That same year, agriculture was one of the largest contributors to GDP growth, alongside construction, professional and business services and real estate, rental and leasing, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
But are these small farms viable. After all it takes more than $10,000 to live a year. Data that I recently read says that it takes sales of at least $50,000 per year for a farm to economically viable. What family can live off of $50,000 per year in this day and age, especially since this is the gross amount of sales and farm expenses are going to take a large part of the sales income.
My best guess is that it takes something closer to $200,000 to be a self sustaining farm, and even then times will be hard. That means that only about 10% of farmers are making a living off of the farm. Even then I would bet that a job in town is held by someone in the family, or a Social Security check is providing some income. That means that of the 2% of Americans who are farmers, only a small percentage of that 2% are making their entire living off of the farm. That is precious few folks to provide our food here in America.
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