Off-farm occupation farms had the largest percentage of farms managed by principal operators under 55 years of age in 2020
Almost a quarter of farm operations are run by a principal operator who is under 55 years old. The principal operator is the person most responsible for making day-to-day decisions. In comparison, 63 percent of U.S. self-employed workers in nonagricultural industries are younger than 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, midsize family farms, which have a gross cash farm income of $350,000 to $999,999, and off-farm occupation farms, which are small operations whose principal operators report a primary occupation other than farming, had the largest percentage of farms managed by principal operators younger than 55 years, at 36 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Retirement farms had the smallest percentage (2 percent) of farms managed by a younger principal operator. For many family farms, the farm is also the home, and the principal operator can gradually phase out of farming or transition management to the next generation. Improved health and advances in farm equipment also allow principal operators to farm later in life than in previous generations. This figure updates information from the 2015 ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms.
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