The size of the average farm in the Midwest grew steadily in the second half of the 20th century. As farm size has gone up, the number of farms has gone down. The shrinking number of farms in America no longer represents people liberated from the drudgery of agricultural toil. Instead it brings to mind families forced to leave the land and work they love by falling agricultural prices and rising costs of production.
As a result, some people have begun to work for the preservation of small farms. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty about this goal. The questions range from the philosophical, “If large farms are efficiently supplying our needs, is it right to worry about small ones?” to the basic, “What is a small farm?” and the practical, “What can be done to help small farms?”
This publication begins to answer some of these questions. Although the answers are neither simple nor definitive, the discussion here is intended to help agricultural professionals, farmers, and the public better understand and act on these challenging issues.