Leaving Our Farms

Not since 1860 have there been so few farms in the U.S., according to the latest data from the USDA. That is not a typo. There are fewer farms in the country today than at any time in the last 150 years, when our population was a tenth of what it is today.

And today the average farm is 441 acres, over twice the size of the average farm size in 1860. Even that is deceptive, as a mere 8% of U.S. farmers now control over 41% of American farmland, and their farms are much larger than 441 acres.

As agriculture (i.e. our food production) is consolidated into ever fewer hands, Americans continue to abandon the countryside in favor of cities. The 1920 Census was the first to show that the majority of Americans had become urban. That year 52% of the population was urban. Today, about 100 years later, about 85% of the American population is urban.

Interestingly, there was one deviation from this pattern. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s the country’s urban population shrank and the rural population grew, as people who had lost their city jobs returned to farms. But once the economic crisis had passed, the migration to cities resumed at full speed.

So now we have only 15% of our population living in rural America, with over 40% of our agricultural production controlled by .0005% of the people, on “farms” with annual revenues exceeding $500,000.

There is reason to believe this consolidation of American agriculture will continue. Today the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58, up nearly 8 years over the past three decades.

And as America loses herĀ rural agrarian population, the values and worldviews that come with that way of living are endangeredĀ as well.