The number of small farms in the United States made a comeback over the last ten years, according to recent census information. The trend, driven by a series of factors, may represent a revitalization of local agriculture and the beginning of a gradual rejection of large-scale agribusiness.
For the first time since the 1930s, the raw numbers of American farms has increased. While the increase (seen gradually from the early 2000’s to 2010) is a small one, it represents a sudden break with a seventy year trend. With increasing technological breakthroughs in farm equipment, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, and new strains of modified crops, larger farms have been growing and absorbing small farms, leading to an increasingly smaller number of farms in the United States even as agricultural production increases.
The recent uptick in number of farms, some farm experts believe, is the result of increased emphasis on local production/consumption and the increase in farmers’ markets. As more and more consumers look to consume local produce, they are increasingly willing to buy from local farmers, allowing some agricultural producers to gain a slight advantage over large-scale farms. In addition, the increasing attention being paid to college-aged farmers (as seen in a series of U.S. Department of Agriculture grants) may be paying off, allowing more and more new farmers to enter the profession.
While it is too soon to tell whether this trend is a temporary anomaly or the sign of a larger development in agricultural production, it at least represents a tantalizing ray of hope to individuals who believe that farm production in the U.S. is unsustainable in the long-term.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer