The amount of hired farm labor increases with farm size

A chart showing the sources of farm labor by sales class.

Labor and land both figure prominently as major inputs into farming. Both labor and land have trended downward over time, with labor declining more rapidly than land. The amount of labor used per farm grows with farm size, increasing from a median of 0.7 annual person equivalents (1 person working 40 hours per week for 50 weeks) for the smallest farms to 5.6 for the largest. The operator and spouse provide the bulk of the labor on smaller farms-averaging at least three-fifths of total labor hours until sales reach $500,000. Even in the $500,000-$999,999 sales class, the operator and spouse remain an important source of labor, accounting for roughly the same share of labor hours as hired/contract labor. Once sales reach $1 million, however, hired and contract labor account for 89 percent of labor hours. This chart is found in The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming, EIB-88, December 2011.

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