Multi-Enterprising Farm Households: The Importance of Their Alternative Business Ventures in the Rural Economy
by Stephen Vogel
Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-101) 36 pp, October 2012
Almost a third of U.S. farm households generate income by engaging in business
ventures independent of commodity production, with distinctly different community and
household benefits. In 2007, 686,600 farm households engaged in 791,000 income-generating
activities distinct from commodity production, creating $26.7 billion in household
income. Onfarm diversification activities like agritourism and off-farm business ventures
each accounted for about half of these activities, but off-farm businesses generated about
80 percent of total alternative (i.e., noncommodity) business income earned by farm
households, creating the largest impact on the local economy. Off-farm businesses operated
by farm households contributed an estimated $54.6 billion in value-added income to
the gross regional products of their local economies and paid out $24.5 billion in wages
and salaries to 853,100 part-time and full-time employees. In general, the share of the
local employment base accounted for by farmer-owned off-farm businesses was higher in
more rural counties.
Keywords: onfarm diversification, off-farm businesses, portfolio entrepreneur, farm household typology, nonfarm employment, direct sales
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