The search for large farmers
For wheat, a total of 300 farms reported planting more than 5,000 acres. Large wheat farms are the most plentiful in total numbers (300) and in relative terms (0.22% of the 136,103 total farms planting wheat). Large soybean farms are the rarest, with only 74 farms and 0.02% of all soybean farms planting more than 5,000 acres.
A close look at these large corn farms reveals that 116 of the 233 large corn farms are in Illinois (44), Nebraska (28), Iowa (23) and Indiana (23).
The center researchers used the Indiana data for a deeper, more targeted look at farm sizes. Using the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, the they evaluated farm size across the board for all crops. The highest-acre group reported by the USDA is “more than 2,000 acres,” so for this evaluation, that is how the largest farm category is classified.
click image to zoom In all, 1,286 Indiana farms fell into this group, or 2.12% of all Indiana farms. This number was up from 990 in 2002 and 713 in 1997.Knox County, located along the Illinois border in Southern Indiana, is home to 45 farms with more than 2,000 acres, boasting the largest collection of these farms. Knox County and 11 other counties are home to a total of 376 large farms, which means that you’d have to actively search for an area not used by large farms in these counties.
On the other hand, in eastern Indiana, very few of these large farms exist. In some counties, such as Brown and Ohio, there is only one farmer with more than 2,000 acres. In these counties, large farms are a retailer’s crown jewel.
The two figures above illustrate a story of farm size in Indiana. The first, showing the number of farms in the USDA’s largest acre group, highlights the concentration of large operations centralized in two western multi-county pockets. To work in this area would be a retailer’s dream.
In contrast, the second image shows the number of farms in the USDA’s smallest acre group (less than 260 acres), highlighting that these farms are more common in the eastern stretches of the state.
Moving from the Ohio border toward Illinois, small farms become less prevalent and the large farms become the norm.
While this data is a bit out-of-date (a 2007 survey being referenced in 2013), the implications are still relevant. First, the number of “large farms” is quite small, no matter which metric you use to measure it. While the overall trend toward larger farms, briefly pointed out in this report, is likely to continue, the fact will probably remain that less than 1% of corn farmers plant more than 5,000 acres and less than 5% (2.12% in 2007) of Indiana farmers harvest more than 2,000 acres. Overall, these farms just aren’t as common as one might think.