Fewer Farmers, Larger Farms
I'm guessing you've heard by now that South Dakota had fewer farms in 2012 than in 2011, and the average farm size grew during that time. I'm sure this news didn't surprise anyone.
By the numbers, the USDA says South Dakota had 31,000 farms in 2012, 300 fewer than in 2011. And the average farm size was 1,408 acres, up from 1,395 the year before.
I don't have a lot to base my own experiences on since I haven't lived on a farm in 40 years, and my parents sold their 240 acres in northern Mccook County 19 years ago. But they raised two sons and sent my brother and me to college on those 240 acres, which now would probably barely qualify as a hobby farm.
And since I don't go out there anymore, I don't know how populated the area is. But when I go to the rural church I grew up going to, I can remember looking around at many farm places, 50 years ago, all with families and all raising children.
Now, I can think of only a couple of farms that are active and occupied, but the land is all farmed.
There's the new USDA report in microcosm, although it didn't happen in the space of a year. It's an illustration of our changing rural landscape: fewer (and probably older) farmers, but larger - much larger - farms.