Feb. 21: Minnesota has fewer – but bigger – farms

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2014 - 8:43 PM

The half-decade snapshot shows the effects of consolidation and aging in the state’s farm country.

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New data shows the number of farms in Minnesota and nationally continues to fall. In Minnesota, about half are run as businesses by farmers and half are owned as hobbies.

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Minnesota lost a greater share of farms than the nation did over the past five years, while the state’s average farm size grew by 5 percent and its average farmer just kept getting older.

Those morsels come from the latest Census of Agriculture, which takes a snapshot of U.S. farms every five years. The Department of Agriculture released the census Thursday.

The number of U.S. farms in 2012 fell 4.3 percent from 2007. In Minnesota, the decline was even steeper: 8 percent.

The amount of land within Minnesota farms fell by only 3 percent, though. That’s a reflection that, while there are fewer farms, they are bigger on average.

In the U.S. as a whole, the amount of land in farms dropped less than 1 percent from 2007 to 2012.

The average Minnesota farm had 349 acres in 2012, up 5 percent. That compares to a 4 percent rise nationally.

In Minnesota, 39,415 principal operators of farms considered farming their primary occupation. But 35,122 didn’t see farming as their main gig.

One thing they all have in common: Farm owners are well into middle age — and getting older.

In 2012, 21,736 Minnesota farmers were between 55 and 64 years old, the biggest concentration in any age bracket. In 2007, the largest number of farmers was in the 45-to-54 age group.

 

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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