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Ag Census results show size of Georgia farms shifted

The 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture shows the biggest change in Georgia agriculture since 2012 has been a shift in the size of farms. Census results the USDA released April 11 show Georgia has 42,439 farms. Of these, 3,540 farms had acreage changes between 2017 and the previous ag census of 2012.

Georgia’s number of small (10-179 acres) and mid-size (180-999 acres) farms decreased while micro farms (1 to 9 acres) showed a significant increase and large farms (1,000 acres or more) showed a slight increase.

The census, conducted every five years by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, indicates more Georgians were farming in 2017 than in 2012 . The number of Georgia farms increased from 42,257 in 2012 to 42,439 in 2017. That’s an increase of 0.4% or 182 farms. Acres of land farmed in Georgia increased from 9.6 million acres in 2012 to 9.95 million acres in 2017. That’s an acreage increase of 3.5% (up 332,894 acres). Georgia’s average farm size increased from 228 acres in 2012 to 235 acres in 2017, up 3.1%.

But, put in a historical perspective, the latest census numbers show Georgia has lost 6,904 farms since the 1997 ag census and 1.35 million acres of land being farmed. Georgia had 49,343 farms in 1997 and 11.26 million acres of land being farmed.

To put the census numbers in context, you also need to know the USDA defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of ag products were produced and sold or normally would have been sold in a census year.

The national census shows the U.S. had 3.4 million producers in 2017 and 2 million farms. There were 3.18 million producers nationwide in 2012 and 2.1 million farms.

Other Georgia highlights of the 2017 census:

• The number of producers associated with Georgia’s farms totaled 68,087, up from 61,053. (The 2017 census allowed farms to report multiple producers involved with decision making up to 5 producers/farm.)

• The market value of ag products sold by Georgia farms was $9.6 billion, up from $9.3 billion in 2012 and $5.2 billion in 1997.

• Georgia continues to rank #1 in the U.S. for market value of poultry & eggs sold. Georgia has 5,271 poultry farms that produced $5.4 billion. Georgia produced 11% of the $49.2 billion of poultry products sold in the U.S.

• Georgia’s farming population is 66% male, 34% female.

• The average age of Georgia farmers is 57.9 years, up from 57.7 in 2012.

• Georgia had 5,721 farmers under the age of 35 in 2017. They made up 8.4% of Georgia’s farmers.

• Georgia ranks #2 in the U.S. for its percentage (33%) of producers who have been farming 10 years or less.

• Georgia has 122 USDA Certified Organic farms with total sales of $29.9 million.

Shift in farm size

The 2017 census shows Georgia farms 1 to 9 acres in size grew in number from 3,003 in 2012 to 4,520 in 2017. That’s an increase of 1,490 farms in this category.

Farms between 10 to 49 acres dropped by 390 farms from 13,830 in 2012 to 13,440 in 2017.

The largest decrease in farm size occurred in the 50 to 179-acre range with this category plunging from 14,670 farms in 2012 to 13,480 farms in 2017 for a total decrease of 1,190 farms.

Farms between 180 to 499 acres increased by 180 from 6,330 in 2012 to 6,510 in 2017. Farms between 500 to 999 acres decreased by 500 from 2,280 in 2012 to 2,230 in 2017.

Farms 1,000 acres or more increased by 150 farms from 2,110 in 2012 to 2,260 in 2017.

Farmers by gender

In Georgia, 66% of our 68,087 farmers are male (44,839) and 34% are female (23,248). The number of female farmers in Georgia increased 30.8% in the past five years. Nationwide, 64% of all farmers are male while 36% are female.

The increase in Georgia female farmers is because the census questionnaire changed the way demographic questions were asked Jacqueline Moore, deputy regional director of the NASS Southern Region office said. Farms were allowed to report multiple producers and most of the newly reported producers were female.

If you’re wondering how the ratio plays out in Georgia’s young producers (age 35 years or less), it’s almost identical to the overall population. of all Among Georgia farmers age 35 years & younger 65% are male (3,717) and 35% (2,004) are female.

 The average age of Georgia’s female farmers is 57.1 years and the average age of male farmers is 58.3 years.

Farmers by age

The average age of Georgia farmers saw the slightest of increases from 2012 to 2017 as it went from 57.7 years to 57.9 years. The average age of the U.S. farmer is 57.5 years.

Georgia had 5,721 farmers under the age of 35 in 2017. The average age of these farmers was 29.5 years. This age group made up 8.4% of Georgia’s farm population and 9.4% of the U.S. farm population.

This age category is engaged mostly in beef/hay farming, poultry farming or fruit/nut farming and 84% of the young farmers have been farming less than 10 years.

New & beginning farmers are middle-aged

Georgia ranked second in the U.S. behind Alaska for having the largest percentage (33%) of producers who are considered new and beginning farmers. One might assume this refers to young farmers, but the 2017 census shows this isn’t the case. The USDA uses this term to refer to producers who have farmed 10 years or less.

Georgia has 22,743 farmers who fall in this category. Their average age is 48.6 years.  They farm on 14,786 farms in Georgia and the average size of their farms is 161 acres.

This category of farmers produced a total of $2.3 billion in sales in 2017 of which $746 million came from crops and $1.6 billion came from livestock. The average total value of production that these farms produce is $155,690.

It’s worth noting that 2,199 of these farmers had military service.  

Farmers by ethnicity

While 64,574 of Georgia’s farmers are caucasian, the ethnic makeup of Georgia’s producers is more diverse than expected. There are 2,870 African American producers; 922 Hispanic producers; 524 American Indian producers; 494 Asian producers and 43 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander producers.

The number of farms associated with each ethnicity is as follows: White- 40,284; African American: 2,055; Hispanic – 804; American Indian: 446; Asian: 326 and Native Hawaiian: 38.

Organic farms

Georgia’s number of USDA Certified Organic farms increased by 35.6% from 90 in 2012 to 122 in 2017. These farms sold a total of $29.9 million in products in 2017 up from $5.7 million in 2012. In 2017, 53 of the organic farms reported sales up to $4,999 on the low end and 44 farms reported sales of $50,000 or more.

There are 273 producers associated with Georgia’s organic farms. Of these, 170 are male and 103 are female. The average age of Georgia’s organic farmer is 52 years. Thirty-four of the producers served in the military and 169 producers have been farming 10 years or less.

Ga. ag commodities ranked by market value sold

In 2017, the market value of ag products sold by Georgia farms in 2017 was $9.6 billion, up from $9.3 billion in 2012 and $5.2 billion in 1997. Commodities ranked by sales value in Georgia are as follows:

• Georgia’s 5,271 Poultry & Eggs farms ranked #1 in the state & U.S. for sales of $5.4 billion, accounting for 57.3% of the state’s total sales.

• Georgia’s hay & peanut crops (census combines these) ranked #2 in Georgia for sales of $847 million. A total of 10,691 farms reported selling these crops. Peanuts were grown on 2,838 farms.

• Georgia’s 2,550 cotton farms ranked #3 in Georgia for sales of cotton & cottonseed totaling $776 million.

• The 1,899 Georgia farms growing vegetables, melons, potatoes & sweet potatoes had a sales value of $566 million ranking #4 in the state.

• The 3,865 Georgia farms growing fruits, pecans & berries had a sales value of $422 million ranking #5 in the state.

• Georgia had 13,234 farms that sold cattle/calves in 2017 with a sales value of $362 million ranking it #6 for sales. Note that 17,387 Georgia farms reported having cattle in 2017.

• Georgia’s 243 dairy farms ranked #7 for the $331 million sales value of milk produced.

• Georgia’s 933 nursery, greenhouse, floriculture & sod farms ranked #8 for the $322 million sales value they produced.

• The 3,013 Georgia farms growing grains (corn, wheat. oats, sorghum, barley)  soybeans, dry beans & dry peas ranked #9 for the $283 million in sales they produced.

• Georgia’s 811 farms raising pigs ranked #10 for the $53 million in sales they produced.

For  Georgia 2017 Census of Agriculture data, visit For U.S. census data visit