According to some recent news reports based on the US Census of Agriculture, the number of small farms is growing. The US Department of Agriculture conducts a census every five years, and the 2007 census figures were just released. The Department of Agriculture defines a farm as producing and selling $1,000 or more worth of agricultural products each year.
In my home state of Vermont, almost all the new farms reported were under 179 acres. There were five new farms over 2,000 acres, and for farms between those acreages, the number decreased. The Montpelier Times-Argus also reports that the census results show an increasing diversity in farming -- more specialty products or unusual animals, such as yaks.
What does that mean for the new small farmer? Only good things, according to this report in a local Hudson Valley, NY, newspaper. Farmer's markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture) are becoming more popular, and there is demand enough for many small producers to sell local, sustainable produce to their neighbors and community. Small farmers can share resources, ideas, and knowledge with each other as we learn, since many of us hold other jobs and come to farming later in life -- in contrast to previous generations who continued the family farming tradition. The Internet is a great resource for this! Stop by our Small Farm Forums and connect with other small farmers and ask questions.