Farming and Farm Income

American agriculture and rural life underwent a tremendous transformation in the 20th century. Early 20th century agriculture was labor intensive, and it took place on many small, diversified farms in rural areas where more than half the U.S. population lived. Agricultural production in the 21st century, on the other hand, is concentrated on a smaller number of large, specialized farms in rural areas where less than a fourth of the U.S. population lives. The following material provides an overview of these trends, as well as trends in farm sector and farm household incomes.


Most farms are small, but the majority of production is on larger farms

Gross cash farm income (GCFI) includes income from commodity cash receipts, farm-related income, and Government payments. Family farms (where most of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator) of various types together accounted for nearly 98 percent of U.S. farms in 2021. Small family farms (less than $350,000 in GCFI) accounted for 89 percent of all U.S. farms. Large-scale family farms ($1 million or more in GCFI) accounted for about 3 percent of farms but 47 percent of the value of production.

Most farmers receive off-farm income; small-scale operators depend on it

Median total household income among all farm households ($92,239) exceeded the median total household income for all U.S. households ($70,784) in 2021. Median household income and income from farming increase with farm size and most households earn some income from off-farm employment. About 89 percent of U.S. farms are small, with GCFI less than $350,000; the households operating these farms typically rely on off-farm sources for the majority of their household income. In contrast, the median household operating large-scale farms earned $486,475 in 2021, and most of that came from farming.

Last updated: Thursday, December 01, 2022

For more information, contact: Kathleen Kassel