Community, Demography

What is a Farm

A dozen years ago, I wrote “What is a Farm” and now I have one.

The bottom line that defines a farm is production.  “The current definition, first used for the 1974 census, is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. (1992 Census of Agriculture).”  It’s kind of fun to be able to quote myself, and find that the commentary is still accurate 12 years later.

This July, I harvested 275 little round bales of grass hay, and stored them in the log shed.  I figure if I sell them at $4 each, the place makes the minimum to be a farm.  Logically, that makes me a farmer, for the first time in my life.  I remember seeing a neighbor in Ag Hall when I worked for Extension – and commenting to Todd that he was the first farmer I had seen in that building . . . to be fair, I hadn’t worked in Ag Hall all that long.  Now that I’m a farmer I do have to sell those cute little bales to actually qualify.

Since I’ve already done the research, I can help others determine if they also qualify: “The definition also makes it easy to be a “small farmer”: if a family has a couple dozen hens and eats organic eggs from its own free-range chickens, the family probably produces enough to be living on a farm. Similarly, a two-Holstein-steer feedlot with all purchased feed can meet the definition of a farm. Obviously, a large hog confinement facility is a farm, even if it lacks plows and fields.” 

This table shows how the government’s definition of a farm has changed over time: