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50 Fascinating Facts About Farming in America

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Since just after World War II, the number of people employed in agriculture has dropped by half. Most of America’s farms are small and nearly all are family-run—but they’re also disappearing. In 1935, the number of farms peaked at almost 7 million. By 2019, that number had dropped to about 2.02 million farms.

COVID-19 put additional pressure on an already strained industry: In March 2020, farm bankruptcies jumped by 23 percent. And in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020, 580 American farmers filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy protection. Issues during the pandemic included everything from breakdowns in the supply chain to the closures of processing plants.

Karen Bleier / Getty Images

Most farmers’ markets source products within 50 miles

Nearly all U.S. farmers who sell at farmers’ markets work within 50 miles of where they sell their produce. Farmers who supply supermarkets typically live 1,500 miles away. On average, farmers get about 17 cents of every dollar that store shoppers spend on food; those at farmers’ markets take home more than 90 percent of food dollars.

Farm output has soared in the last 70 years

Technological innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization continued, even as the amount of land and labor in farming fell. Still, total U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015.

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