The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that family-owned farms remain the backbone of the agriculture industry. The latest data come from the Census of Agriculture farm typology report and help shine light on the question, “What is a family farm?”
“As we wrap up mining the 6 million data points from the latest Census of Agriculture, we used typology to further explore the demographics of who is farming and ranching today,” said NASS Statistics Division Director Hubert Hamer. “What we found is that family-owned businesses, while very diverse, are at the core of the U.S. agriculture industry. In fact, 97 percent of all U.S. farms are family-owned.”
The 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report is a special data series that primarily focuses on the “family farm.” By definition, a family farm is any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage, or adoption. Key highlights from the report include the following five facts about family farms in the United States:
Five Facts to Know about Family Farms
- Food equals family – 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations.
- Small business matters – 88 percent of all U.S. farms are small family farms.
- Local connections come in small packages – 58 percent of all direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms.
- Big business matters too – 64 percent of all vegetable sales and 66 percent of all dairy sales come from the 3 percent of farms that are large or very large family farms.
- Farming provides new beginnings – 18 percent of principal operators on family farms in the U.S. started within the last 10 years.
“Whether small or large – on the East Coast, West Coast, or the Midwest – family farms produce food and fiber for people all across the U.S. and the world,” said Hamer. “It’s due in part to information such as this from the Census of Agriculture that we can help show the uniqueness and importance of U.S. agriculture to rural communities, families, and the world.”
The 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report classifies all farms into unique categories based on three criteria: who owns the operation, whether farming is the principal operator’s primary occupation, and gross cash farm cash income (GCFI). Small family farms have GCFI less than $350,000; midsize family farms have GCFI from $350,000 to $999,999; and large family farms have GCFI of $1 million or more. Small farms are further divided based on whether the principal operator works primarily on or off the farm.
To access all the data products from the Census typology report, including Highlights, infographics and maps, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.