Farm size steadily rising for fruit and vegetable growers

The size of fruit and vegetable growing operations is steadily increasing, according to a new report.

“Three decades of consolidation in U.S. agriculture,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service report said that the midpoint acreage (half of farms are below the midpoint acreage and half the farms are above it) for fruit, nut and berry operations increased in 19 of 20 crops between 1987 and 2012, with the average increase pegged at 110%. Except for lemon farms, which declined in size 16% from 1987 to 2012, all other fruit operations grew in size, according to the report.

The report was written by James MacDonald, Robert Hoppe and Doris Newton.

MacDonald said March 20 there is some evidence that average farm size has been slowing in the last decade, but he said the long-term trend has been large and persistent across all crops.

For vegetable and melon crops, the report said there has been a “clear slowing” of consolidation from 2007 to 2012. Midpoint acreage declined in six of twenty crops, and the average increase was 10% over that five-year period, compared with previous five-year gains averaging 20%.

Technology has been a driver in larger farm sizes, MacDonald said.

For fruit and vegetable crops, Florida has faced urbanization pressures that have held down average farm sizes. Over the past 30 years, MacDonald said California has seen growers move out of field crops such as grains and into almonds, fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.

Across all crops, the USDA said 51% of the value of U.S. farm production came from farms with at least $1 million in sales, up from 31% in 1991.

Produce item
1987
2012
Change
Strawberries 24 180 650%
Tangerines 55 336 511%
Almonds 203 547 169%
Tomatoes 400 930 133%
Apples 83 179 116%
Grapes 205 420 105%
Blueberries 50 100 100%
Pistachios 465 926 99%
Grapefruit 320 573 79%
Asparagus 160 200 44%
Lettuce 949 1,275 34%
Avocados 40 50 25%
Potatoes 350 1,054 21%
Cantaloupe 400 350 -12%
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