How Many Acres Is A Good Size Farm?

Google this question, and among the answers is this USDA stat:
The average farm size for 2021 is 445 acres, up from 444 acres the previous year.

Here is another stat from the USDA’s Farms and Land in Farms 2021 Summary:

Economic sales class: $1k to $9k
Average farm size: 81 acres

Economic sales class: $10k to $99,999
Average farm size: 304 acres
(sales class is gross sales plus any govt. payments)

Agricultural research and data collection are still mostly based on acres. Based on that, the stats that keep coming out perpetuates the perception that farming is a losing financial proposition. The benchmarks that Wally Satzewich developed for SPIN-Farming tell a different story. Like this one:

$50k on 20,000 sq. ft.

SPIN benchmarks don’t just make the case for using less land to make more money. For you, they are a tool to manage your farm’s business. These are the benchmarks to use:
✔ yields
✔ pricing
✔ revenue

Yield and revenue benchmarks are based on SPIN’s standard size bed measuring 50 sq. ft., and a SPIN segment measuring 1,000 sq. ft. Pricing is based on selling direct to the customer and uses mix and match multiple unit pricing. All of these benchmarks plus those for seeding rates, planting and costs can be found for 40 classic SPIN crops and can be found in the Crop Profiles guide here.

“You need to do a weekly plan and set a revenue target with benchmark numbers that you can use to evaluate your success,” Wally says. “By a plan I mean a schedule of the total units of production you plan on being able to offer week by week. Then you make a weekly revenue projection based on the pricing benchmark.” Thinking in terms of units of production and tying that to a revenue projection keeps your production in sync with your business.

By measuring yourself against SPIN’s benchmarks you can gauge your progress throughout the season so you know how well you’re doing. They aren’t achievable in every situation. Some have already been far surpassed. Eventually you establish your own. The specific numbers don’t really matter. What does is the recognition that farming is a profession you can actually make money at.

While SPIN is based on microeconomics, a movement that is now gaining critical mass has the potential to have a macroeconomic impact. Consider these two possibilities:

In a 2013 survey done by the National Gardening Association, 42 million households reported growing their own food. Anecdotal evidence from seed companies, garden centers and Google searches is that this number has increased due to the pandemic. But let’s use the 2013 number as a baseline. Let’s say an infinitesimal number of them decide to grow food as their livelihood, .5%.
That would mean 210,000 new farmers.

In the US there is about 40 million acres in lawn. If just 10% were turned into SPIN farms, it would equal 160 million SPIN segments. At SPIN’s low revenue benchmark of $1,000/segment, its production value equals $160 billion. At SPIN’s high revenue benchmark of $3,000/segment, its production value equals $480 billion.
The value of lawn as SPIN farms is greater than some of the country’s largest corporations.

Farm reform movements have been working to change the food system for over a quarter century. While their efforts have focused on agriculture practices, policy change and government support, the number of farmers has been steadily declining. What’s held back progress towards the kind of sustainable/regenerative/organic food system that more and more consumers are saying they want and are willing to pay for  is a lack of producers.

This is changing as a critical mass of new professional farmers are turn small plots into sustainable farm businesses. While the garden path hasn’t been the traditional route to a farming career, it is where many future farmers will come from.