April 2018, Volume 24, Number 2
Midpoint Acreage: Selected Fruits, 1987-2012
The number of US farms has stabilized at 2.1 million, but most farm output is from the largest 75,000 farms. Mixing farms that each sell commodities worth more than $1 million a year farm with hobby and retirement operations selling commodities worth less than $10,000 a year generates averages that can be misleading.
Census of Agriculture data permit calculation of the midpoint farm size by commodity. The midpoint farm size is the number of acres at which half of US acreage is on larger farms and half on smaller farms. Midpoint acreages of fruits have risen whether overall acreage increased or decreased, reflecting the concentration of production on larger farms.
The acreage of apples fell almost 30 percent between 1987 and 2012, while the midpoint farm size doubled from 85 to 180 acres. Grape acreage rose 30 percent over the past quarter century, and the midpoint farm size more than doubled to 420 acres. Orange acreage rose less than 10 percent, and the midpoint farm size doubled to 960 acres. Strawberry acreage rose 25 percent, while the midpoint farm size increased almost eight-fold, from 25 to 180 acres.