2011 Income Varies by Farm Typology
ERS has developed a family farm typology that considers gross sales in combination with the occupational characteristics of principal farm operators (see glossary). In the ERS typology, small farms (those grossing less than $250,000 in sales) are classified into two groups based on the occupation of the farm's principal operator. If a principal operator reports being retired or having a major occupation other than farming, the farm is classified as a "residence" farm. If the principal operator of a small farm reports farming as a major occupation and is not retired from farming, their farm is classified as "intermediate." The "intermediate" label does not necessarily indicate a midsized farm; in 2011 only 53 percent of intermediate farms had gross sales more than $10,000. "Commercial" farms are classified as those with $250,000 or more in gross sales, regardless of the occupational characteristics of the principal operator.
In contrast to the general farm household population, households associated with commercial farms derive the majority of their income from farming activities (see table on principal farm operator household finances, by ERS farm typology, 2011 ). Their median income from farming increased by 7.9 percent in 2011 to $84,649, and their total household income also increased by 7.9 percent, to $127,009. (Income forecasts by farm typology are not yet available for 2012 and 2013.) Households associated with intermediate farms also saw a substantial increase (6.4 percent) in total income, to $45,889, but the increase came from higher off-farm income. Residence farm households saw a more modest 2.2-percent increase in income in 2011, also from higher off-farm income.