The 2007 Census of Agriculture, released Feb. 4 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows growing diversity in U.S. farming. But while the number of farms increased overall in the U.S. between 2002 and 2007, not all states showed an increase in the number of farms. North Carolina and Virginia showed a decline in the number of farms within their borders, for example.
Both these big farming states showed a net change of 0% to –1.9% in the number of farms reported during the period.
South Carolina and West Virginia followed the trend established by 23 of the 50 states, however. These two states scored an increase in the overall growth of farm numbers of 5.1% or more during the five-year period between the 2007 Census of Agriculture and the previous census taken in 2002. This was the largest of the five categories of net change listed – with the category of +5.1% more farms on one survey extreme and -2% or fewer farms on the other extreme.
USDA notes new farms tend to be smaller and have operators who are younger. Operators of these farms are also more likely to work off the farm.
Nationally, new farms represent 13% of all farms reported in the 2007 census. These new farms have an average size of 201 acres, less than half the size of the average of all the farms reported.
The average age of the operators of those new farms is 48 years, compared to the average operator age of 57 years on all farms.
Only one-third of the operators of these small farms list farming as their primary occupation. The average value of products sold on these farms broken out of the survey as "new farms" is $71,000. The average value of products sold on all farms in the survey was $135,000.
For more information on the latest Census of Agriculture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.
For a breakout of Census highlights visit www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/Fact_Sheets/farm_numbers.pdf