Group Title: Research report Michigan State University, Agricultural Experiment Station
Title: Description and analysis of Michigan small farms
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 Material Information
Title: Description and analysis of Michigan small farms
Physical Description: 19 p. : map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Thompson, Ronald Lurie, 1949-
Hepp, Ralph E.
Publisher: Michigan State University, Agricultural Experiment Station
Place of Publication: East Lansing, Mich.
Publication Date: March, 1976
Copyright Date: 1976
Subject: Farms, Small -- Michigan   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Ronald L. Thompson and Ralph E. Hepp.
General Note: Michigan State University, Agricultural Experiment Station research report 296
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Bibliographic ID: UF00089581
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 18004116

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/,H 17633

MARCH 1976



Description and Analysis of

Michigan Small Farms

Description and Analysis of

Michigan Small Farms

Ronald L. Thompson and Ralph E. Hepp1

Small farms hold an important position in Michi-
gan's agriculture by farm numbers and production
of agriculture commodities. A small farm is defined
as over 10 acres of farmland grossing between $50
and $20,000 from agricultural products and ser-
vices in 1969 prices. Over 85% of the state's 77,928
farms are small.
Any attempt to develop educational programs for
small farm operators must begin with an under-
standing of their situation. Of the 66,494 small
farms, 57% are operated by full-time, off-farm
employees whose farms are secondary sources of
income. Part-time farmers have been further clas-
sified into rural residents who gross less than
$2,500 from the farm and supplemental income
farmers who gross between $2,500 and $20,000
from the fann. Seventeen percent are called senior
citizens, farmers over 64 years of age or collecting
social security, whose farming activities are declin-
ing. The remaining 26% of the small farm operators
are full-time farmers with less than 100 days of off-
farm employment. Appreciation of rural life is the
primary motivation for families to live on small
One-third of all agricultural sales originate from
small fans, with commercial farms producing the
remainder. Over 50% of the beef calves, sheep and
fat cattle come from small farms. Dairy and poultry
enterprises are concentrated on commercial farms.
Small farms produce 57% of Michigan's 5% mil-
lion acres of harvested crops. These farms domi-
nate production in forages, soybeans and small
grains. One out of three acres in corn silage is pro-
duced on the small farms, but one of every two
acres in corn grain is produced on the small farms.
Fruit and vegetable production is concentrated on
commercial farms.

In 1969 small farms occupied two out of three
acres of Michigan's farmland, including riot only
harvested crops but all uses for land. Michigan's
small farm sector currently is the state's least effi-
cient and least productive. Crop yields per acre
were lower than on commercial farms, and a smal-
ler percentage of cropland results in harvested
crops. Land on small farms was more extensively
used for low-valued crops such as pasture. In addi-
tion, productivity from the livestock enterprise was
less than that of commercial operations.
The small operators reported a desire to increase
income from the small farm. However, half antici-
pated no changes in their operation to arrive at
higher incomes. Only 31% of the small farm
operators anticipated expanding or changing their
enterprises in some way in the next two or three
years to accomplish a higher-income goal. The
senior citizens anticipate decreasing and terminat-
ing their operations in the future.
Family income on the small farm has reached
over $10,000, with some families living on small
farms in a poverty situation. Off-farm employment
is essential to the small farm operator. Most of the
male heads with off-farm employment earn be-
tween $4 and $5.50/hour, while one in three earns
less than $4/hour. To obtain this employment they
travel approximately 17 miles one-way to their
Another interesting feature of the small-farm
population is the relationship between property
value and family income. Because of inflating land
prices, most of the small farm families have net
worths in excess of $40,000. Full-time farmers have
the greatest net worth but the lowest incomes,
while the rural residents have the largest off-farm

I Respectively, fonr graduate assistant. Michilan Slate University and as-
winate prof, AUicunltra Ecoomica. Michlam Sta Unwiniy.

income but lowest net worth. The net family in-
come derived from all sources for one-half the full-
time and one-third the senior citizen farms is under
$5,000 and lower than the interest their capital
could earn in money markets. This creates the
complex occurrence of simultaneous poverty and
wealth. The ability of these families to escape in-
come poverty without off-farm employment or
higher social security payments is questionable.
However, marginal increases in net cash income
on small farms are possible. Although many
specific questions remain unanswered, alternatives
for increased income are goals to improve farm in-
.come, higher percentage of the cropland in har-
vested crops, increased productivity from produc-
tion enterprises, shifting from low profit to higher
profit enterprises and increased margins from pro-
ducts produced.
Extension educators and researchers can assist
small-farm operators achieve income and other
goals for the small farm. Research results from
technical production and management practices
can be used in development of extension materials.
Traditional extension methods such as mass media,
group meetings and individual counseling can be
used with the small-farm clientele to address prob-
lems and goals for the small farm. Audiences must
be segregated and extension programs directed to-
ward a particular audience for maximum educa-
tional benefit.
American agriculture has been constantly chang-
ing during the last 30 years. Rapid technological
and structural changes have occurred. Increased
capital uses and reduction in labor requirements
have brought about the displacement in agricul-
tural labor and increases in family farm size. Appli-
cation of new technology and capital have in-
creased total agricultural production while total a-
creage has steadily decreased. Thus, overabun-
dance of farm output has reduced profit margins
and developed production control mechanisms to
constrain output.
Agricultural research during this period was con-
cerned with cost efficiency, and agricultural exten-
sion activities aimed at introducing the new
technology. Although the information was availa-
ble to all farmers, innovative farmers were most re-
ceptive to change. It was assumed that the new
technology would be adopted by innovative farm-
ers and then spread to neighboring farmers.
Michigan's-agriculture has experienced similar
economic and technical forces plus a viable non-
farm job market in rural areas. While a few farmers

have expanded and specialized, most decided to
remain with a smaller unit. Off-farm employment
supplemented family income, or, because of age,
farmers retired or partially retired from active farm-
ing. As farms were sold, neighboring farmers
purchased the land for expansion or people from
town moved to the country, continued to work in
nonfarm jobs and farmed in their spare time.
In an attempt to be more responsive in research
and extension educational programs for small farm
operators, a research project was developed to bet-
ter understand the situation on the small farm.
More specifically, the project objectives were to:
1. Define a small farm and develop a procedure
to identify the operators by goals for the farm
2. Determine the farm enterprises, capital and
human resources, and other characteristics
3. Determine the family income and quality of
life goals and determine the extent of poverty
income on the farm
4. Explore alternatives for small-farm operators
for increasing farm income
5. Identify further research and extension educa-
tional efforts for assisting families on small
This publication is a primary description to set
the stage for further work. It includes implications
for small farm operators in increasing farm returns,
Extension educational programs to better meet
their needs and research areas that need to be ex-
Data Sources and Survey Procedures
Secondary data were obtained from the Michigan
Census of Agriculture and Population.
Descriptive information about small farm charac-
teristics and families who live on these farms were
derived from interviews with a stratified random
sample of small farm operators from lower Michi-
gan. The Lower Peninsula was divided into 10
areas by farm type, proximity to urban areas, farm
numbers and geographic location (Fig. 1). Areas
were defined as follows, and one county was ran-
domly selected from each area.
* Standard metropolitan statistical areas3 (Ottawa
* Southwestern counties (Cass County)
* Shiawassee, Livingston and St Clair Counties2
(Livingston County)
* A "Standad metropolitOn staMAcal am" isa county or sromp ofcontiltanums rnmin
tie tha cMsmlnm at lem uMw city 1s.W o mam. or Iwiu cim*" wilt a anl..u .l
popular daof eat Iw So.
* Thw thme coalntk wem grouped towlher hecauMe oI( roiraephic I< -tiHIM UISa
Pmroiity to SMSA&.

Fig. Ten areas chosen for interviewing operators on
small farms.

* Remaining southern counties (Branch County)
* Thumb counties (Sanilac County)
* Cash crop counties Montcalm, Gratiot and
Ionia (lonia County)
* Northwestern fruit counties (Leelanau County)
* Central Michigan cash-crop and mixed livestock
area counties (Gladwin County)
* Northeastern counties with larger farm numbers
(Ogemaw County)
* Remaining north central counties (Oscoda
County) randomly chosen.

To reduce the interviewing costs and develop a
procedure for identifying the small farms in a
county, three townships from each county were
randomly selected and ranked. Farm owners with
less than 200 acres were listed using the township
plat book. The lists were sent to the respective
township supervisors and county extension direc-
tors to eliminate property owners who no longer
owned the property or operated the farm and farm-
ers who were defined as operating commercial
farms. Addresses and phone numbers for the
small-farm owners and operators were obtained
from the Michigan State Library, and interviews
were conducted during the spring of 1974.

If a 3% sample of all county small farms was not
obtained in the first township, the second township
was used to complete the survey. Adequate inter-
views were obtained from the first two townships
without interviewing in the third township. Per-
sonal interviews were obtained from 275 operators
and 240 usable schedules were included in the

What is a Small Farm?
The term "limited resource" or "small farm" is
used by many agriculturalists to denote relatively
small farming operations. However, there is no
consensus as to how to define a small farm. Com-
monly used size measures are capital invested,
physical units (i.e., acres, labor, number of live-
stock), gross income or net income.
Family income potential and family goals for the
farm were the basic criteria used for defining a
small farm. Given present technology, price rela-
tionships and concepts of efficient-sized units to
support a family, it appeared that at least $20,000
in gross sales was required in 1969 to provide an
adequate return to the family. Approximately 25%
of gross farm sales results in family labor and capi-
tal returns or $5,000 on a farm grossing $20,000.
A small farm was defined as over 10 acres of land
grossing between $50 and $20,000 from the busi-
ness at 1969 agricultural price levels. Farms of less
than 10 acres with sales over $250 are also in-
cluded in this definition. This classification com-
prises U.S. Agriculture Census Economic Classes
3-6, part-time and part-retired.4 Farms grossing
over $20,000 are defined as commercial farms.
This definition translates in physical measure
into typical Michigan farm enterprises smaller
* Dairy 25 milk cows plus feed crop acres for
the dairy animals
* Cash grain 200 tillable acres
* Beef cattle feeding 100 feeders plus feed crop
acres for cattle

Class I ............. 40.000 or more of frm product sales
Cau ............ .20.000 to $3a9,99 of fa product ales
Class 3 ........... 10.00 to *19.999 of farm pmlroduct A .s
Class 4 ............o5000 to $U9.i of finrm pxlut. s.ln s
Clas5 ...........$2 500 to 34,99 of farm product sales or having a value of
products sold of less than $2,500, provided they had the
acreage oa livestock poteralon tihl Mwnrmlly would have had
sales i., enrmss o $2,5SIN1).
Cla 6 ........... S5 to $2.491) of arnlm product sales l a fr m operatr who
is under 5 years of ae aml did Iat work off the frmn lX) dlays
or mor In the census year.
Part Time ......... 50 to $8.499 of farm product sales and a (ann operator who is
unler 45 years 4r ag, amr l waakeid T oIllt rtnar Ilx) qdlty or imonr
I. the census year.
Pat Retirement ...0 to .499 of fann product sales and a farm operator who is
65 yearn oli or over.

* Beef cow and calf 80 cows plus feed crop acres
for the herd
* Farrow and finish swine 30 sows, two-litter
system, plus feed crop acres for the swine
* Feeder pig production swine 60 sows, two-
litter system, plus feed crop acres for the swine
* Feeder pig finish swine 500 feeders plus feed
crop acres for the feeders
* Poultry 3,500 laying hens plus feed crop acres
for the poultry
* Fruit 40 acres

Physical measures were used in discussions with
farmers about a small farm because gross income is
usually not known and it is difficult to approach a
farm operator on income. Due to inflation, the farm
enterprises described above would gross more than
$20,000 in today's prices, but still be relatively
small farms.
Within this broad category of small farms, it was
necessary to further categorize the owner-operators
on the basis of age and off-farm employment. The
reasoning underlying this further categorization
comes in the recognition of the varied oppor-
tunities and goals facing different small-farm
groups. The categories are defined as follows:

1. Rural Residents Person under 65 years of
age, working more than 100 days/year in non-
farm employment, with annual farm sales less
than $2,500.

2. Supplemental Income Farmers Person un-
der 65 years of age, working more than 100
dayslyear in nonfarm employment, with an-
nual farm sales between $2,500 and $20,000.

3. Senior Citizen Farmers Person receiving
social security or over 64 years of age with
annual farm sales of less than $20,000.

4. Full-Time Small Farm Operators Person
under 65 years of age, working less than 100
days/year in nonfarm employment, with an-
nual farm sales of less than $20,000.

Number of Small Farms in Michigan
Michigan agriculture is characterized by a large
number of small farm units and few commercial
farms. Table 1 shows the number and percentage
of farms by operator characteristics. The 18 abnor-
mal farms (i.e., research farms) have not been in-
eluded. Eighty-five percent consists of small farms.

Some commercial farm operators had off-farm in-
come and were over 64 years of age. However, no
attempt was made to further characterize these
commercial farm operators.

Table 1. Number and percent of Michigan farms by oper-
ator characteristics, 1969 (

Operator Number of %
Farm Size Characteristics Farms Total Farms
Commercial Full-time farmers 11,434 15
Senior citizens 11.439 15
Full-time farmers 17.077 22
Supplemental income 15,341 20
Rural residents 22637 29
(a) Sureo: 1 g Michigan Census o Agricultue.

Evidence shows the farm numbers and small
farms percentage in Michigan to be higher than
reported. When the 1969 census figures are cor-
rected for over- and under-count using the United
States averages (see Table 2), the number of small
farms in Michigan totals 81,843. The 1969 Agri-
cultural Census reports that percentage as 85.3%,
but when corrected the figure rises to 87.8%.

Table 2. Number of farms by economic class and cor-
rected estimates, () 1969 Michigan Census of

1969 1969
Commercial Farms
Class I 3,975 3,951
Class I 7,459 7,451
Limited Resource Farms
Class III 9,282 9,227
Class IV 10,887 11,669
Class V 12.572 13.475
Class VI 4,154 5,842
Part-time 22,637 31,838
Part-retired 6.962 9.792
Total Farms 77.928 93,210)
(a) cm e.t e..
(b) Cometed estimates derived from Michigan Census and Inwnun. J.J. uanl ).D.
PmRhosek. 197. Meauring Completeness of Covera in t 196 Census of Agri-
cultue. "Amercaa Stadstic AMsociatioa Business and Economics Statsticsi Setion."

The 1970 Michigan Census of Population reports
100,791 families and 16,189 unrelated individuals
living on farms. Larger family numbers would be
possible if more than one family lived on a farm.
Likewise, the Michigan Department of Agriculture
statistics report 87,000 farms in 1969.

Trends in Small Farm Numbers
Historically, both the number and percentage of
small farms in Michigan and in the nation are on a
decline. Data from the 1959, 1964 and 1969 Cen-
suses of Agriculture are presented in Figs. 2-4.
The overall decrease in the small farm popula-
tion between 1959 and 1969 was 30% in Michigan,
as compared to only 23% for the nation as a whole.
However, Michigan's small farms have comprised
a consistently greater percentage than the national
Within the categories of small farms in Michigan,
several trends are discernible. The percentage of
senior citizen farms has remained almost constant
from 1959 to 1974. The percentage of full-time
small farms has decreased constantly. This reflects
both an increase in size in some full-time units that
can no longer be classified as small, as well as
shifts in others to senior citizen, supplemental in-
come or rural resident categories. Still others are
no longer in farming. Taken together, the percen-
tage of supplemental income and rural resident
farms has steadily increased to 57% of all small
farms. The overall increasing trend reflects in-
creased opportunities for off-farm employment for
farm operators and the desire of some employed
people to live on farms.
In absolute numbers, Michigan had a decline of
44% in the full-time category between 1959 and
1969, 38% in the senior citizen category and 33%
in the rural resident category. The supplemental
income category showed a 1% gain during the
same period.


66M494 85%9

84,037 90%

I 106l811
Na of Small Farms



S 96% 1959.
Percent Small Farms

United States

2,175,475 80%1

2,753,897 87%

2,820,127m 90%
No of Small Farms Percent Small Farms




Fig. 3. Number and percent small farms, United
States, 1959, 1964 and 1969 Censuses of Agriculture.

35 34 1964 3
32 1969
30 28
25- 23

Percent 20' I s
15 14
0o .

Rural Supo4em toa Senior
resident income citizen Full-time
Small Farm Category

Fig. 4. Percent small farms by small farm category,

County Numbers
According to the 1969 Michigan Census of Ag-
riculture,5 the range in number of small farms per
county was from a low of 21 in Luce County to a
high of 2,219 in Sanilac County (Table 3). All coun-
ties in southern Michigan had over 1,000 small
farms, except four predominately urban counties.
Almost all of the counties in central and northern
Michigan had fewer than 400 small farms. Percen-
tagewise, the range was from a low of 72.4%, also
in Luce County, to a high of 97.9% in Baraga
County. In only one county with more than 1,000
small farms was the percentage of such farms great-
er than 90%. The other 20 counties with small
farms in excess of 90% of all farms were scattered
throughout central and northern Michigan. Only
one-third of the counties having fewer than 85%
small farms was scattered throughout central and
northern Michigan, with the rest concentrated in
southern Michigan.

Fig. 2. Number and percent of small farms in Mich-
igan, 1959, 1964 nid 1969 Censuses of Agriculture.

* The 1 9 (ensmt report nmilts Kewrermw omI Crawfrnl

Table 3. Number and percent of small farms by County, Michigan Census of Agriculture, 1969

County % No.

Alcona 92.1 280
Alger 88.5 92
Allegan 81.0 2,002
Alpena 92.7 530
Antrim 83.6 285
Arenae 85.1 463
Baraga 97.9 139
Barry 87.2 1,134
Bay 85.5 1,293
Bcnzie 89.6 207
Berrien 85.2 2,140
Ranch 88.2 1,439
C;ilhoioi 85.5 1,475
Cass 84.6 1,073
Charlevoix 90.3 251
Cheboygani 94.4 202
Chippewa 86.3 386
Clare 89.8 354
Clinton 84.7 1,677
Delta 87.9 328
Dickinson 82.1 133
Eaton 89.3 1,591
Emmet 84.7 210
Genesee 90.9 1,236
Gladwin 93.1 472
Cogehic 94.5 69
Grand Traverse 82.3 521
Gratiot 83.3 1,611
Hillsdale 89.3 1,811
Houghton 95.3 261
Huron 80.4 2,015
Inghlam 81.9 1,146
lonia 81.0 1,320
losco 92.0 286
Iron 93.4 99
Isabella 84.9 1,078
Jackson 88.1 1,389
Kalamazoo 85.4 1,020
Kalkaska 89.3 109
Kent 81.4 1,545

County % No.

Presque Isle
St Clair
St Joseph
Van Buren

Market Share
Even though small farms make up 85% of all
farms in Michigan by number, their importance di-
minishes for products and services sold. Table 4
shows that small farms sell approximately one-
third of all agricultural products and services, and
commercial farms account for the remainder. By
type of product or service, small farms account for
at least one-half of recreational services, govern-
ment farm program payments, custom work and
other agricultural services and forest product

Table 4. Percent of market value
ucts and services sold
small farms, 1969 (a)

for agricultural prod-
by commercial and

Type of Products and Services Sold Commercial Small
Farms Faurms
Crops, including nurusry products and
hay 60 40
Forest products 50 50
Livestock, poultry and their products 70 30
Custom work and other agricultural
services 50 50
Recreational services 15 85
Government farm programs 32 68
All agricultural products and services 64 36
s0.. 1m MIcthla o Apicumlm.



Net farm income for small farms is 30% after pro-
duction expenses are subtracted from gross sales.
Small farms retain a smaller amount for labor and
capital return than commercial farms.
By small farm category, part-time farmers (rural
residents and supplemental income farmers) ac-
count for 15% of all agricultural sales and full-time
small farm operators account for 16% (Table 5).
Part-retired farmers or those classified as senior cit-
izens account for 5% of sales.

Table 5. Percent of market value for all agricultural
products and services by operator characteris-
tics, 1969 ('<
% of All Agr.
Farm Size Operator Characteristics Products and Services
Commercial Full-time farmers 64
Senior citizens 5
Full-time farmers 16
Supplemental income 12
Rural residents 3
Total 100
(a) Source: 1969 Michigan Census of Ariculture.

Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Production
The relative portion of livestock, dairy and
poultry production on small and commercial farms
varies considerably by enterprise type. Table 6
shows the percent of inventory number of animals
for size group. Beef cows are primarily a small
farm enterprise, as compared to dairy cows, which
are more often produced on commercial farms. An
estimate of the feeder cattle on farms shows more
on small farms than large farms, even though Mich-
igan has excellent commercial cattle feeding

Table 6. Percent of animal production on commercial
and small farms, 1969 (a)
Inventory Numbers Commercial Small
of Various Animals Farms Farms
Beefcows 26 74
Dairy cows 64 36
Feeder cattle 43 57
Hogs and pigs 50 50
Sheep and lambs 25 75
Laying hens 84 16
(a) Source: 1969 Michign Census ofAgriculture.

About one-half of the hogs and pigs on the farm
are on small farms. Slightly more than one-half of
the litters farrowed were on small farms. Produc-
tion of feeder pigs for sale is an enterprise domi-
nated by small farms. Sixty-nine percent of the
quarter-million feeder pigs sold from Michigan
farms was produced on small farms.

Although sheep production is a less important
livestock enterprise for Michigan farms, three-
quarters of the sheep and lambs were produced on
small farms. Poultry is found to a greater extent
on the commercial farm than on the small farm.

Crop Production
Small farms produce 57% of the 5 million
acres of harvested crops in Michigan (Table 7).
These farms dominate production in forages, soy-
beans and small grains. One out of three acres in
corn silage is produced on small farms, as is one of
every two acres in corn for grain. Fruit and vegeta-
ble production is concentrated on commercial
The 1969 Michigan Census of Agriculture data
demonstrate a difference in yields between the
state's commercial and small farms. Small farms
have 15% lower yield in corn for grain, 12% lower
yield in wheat and 14% lower yield in soybeans
than commercial farms. Hay yield from the 1974
survey results was 30% lower than the yield from
Telfarm records.6
While there are possibly many explanations for
this phenomena, the census also reports that small
farms used 40% less dollar value of fertilizer per
acre on corn. From this, it may be inferred that
herbicide, pesticide and other input usage may
also be less than that used on commercial farms.

Table 7. Percent of harvested cropland by commercial
and small farms, 1969 (a)
Acres in Commercial Small
Crop Crop Farms Farms
(000 omitted) %
Corn for all purposes 1,523 54 46
Hay 1,375 37 63
Other 710 45 55
Wheat for grain 540 33 67
Other small grains 516 34 66
Soybeans 472 26 74
Land in orchards 191 58 42
Vegetables 100 67 33
Potatoes 43 83 17
Berries 16 22 78
Sorghum 10 40 60
Total 5,501
(a) Snurewe 1 OO \fichiaiun Crons, ofAgAriculturr.

Land in Farms
There has been a constant decline in Michigan
farmland from 14.7 million acres in 1959 to 11.9
million acres in 1969. During this period, land in
small farms declined by 5 million acres, while

Telfmn Is an nhul icat n i oiu lamol r namlm I tih (rngruNlive KI tlrlnsiol .S.t-
vice at Sichigan State Unlvenlty amn hIbsel n a fann recnnl .sytemn.

land in commercial farms grew by 2.2 million
acres. Because a small farm was defined as grossing
less than $20,000 in 1969 prices, it is hard to de-
fine what a small farm was in 1959, and this may
explain part of change over time. Yet in 1969,
small farms occupied 2 of every 3 acres of Michi-
gan farmland.
Table 8 shows land use in agriculture for 1969
for commercial and small farms. In general, small
farms have a disproportionate amount of land in
nonproductive uses. Only 4 out of 10 acres on a
small farm are used for harvested crops, compared
to 6 out of 10 on a commercial farm. In addition,
small farms use 3 of every 10 acres for cropland
pasture and other cropland7 uses versus 2 of every
10 acres on commercial farms.

Table 8. Percent of land use in agriculture by commer-
cial and small farms, 1969 (*'
Commercial Small
Land Use Farms Farms

Harvested cropland 43 57
Cropland pasture 23 77
Other cropland 21 79
Woodland 24 76
Other land 24 76
All agricultural land 32 68
(a) Source: 1969 Michigan Census of Agriculture.

Families on small farms operate 65% of Michi-
gan farmland for all cropland uses (Table 9). By
operator characteristics, part-time farmers (rural
residents and supplemental income farmers) oper-
ate one-third of the cropland and full-time farmers
on small firms operate 22% of the land.

Table 9. Percent of cropland use by operator character-
istics, Michigan, 1969

Operator % of All
Farm Size Characteristics Cropland
Commercial Full-time farmers 35
Senior citizens 10
Full-time farmers 22
Supplemental income 20
Rural residents 13
Total 100

Family Members and Age
Approximately 94% of Michigan small farm fami-
lies responding to the 1974 survey were headed
by both a husband and wife (Table 10). Less than
3% did not have a male heading the family, and on-
ly two categories, senior citizen and full-time, had
more than 3% of the families not include a wife.
The men were older than the women in all cate-
gories, with the majority of men in all categories
over 45. The majority of female heads in both the
rural resident and supplemental income groups
were under 45, but the opposite was true for the
other two categories. Male heads also tended to be
youngest in both the rural resident and supple-
mental income categories.

S"All other copland" include cropland usd for oil improvement cups, crop
Fliv.. isae n fallow Mad al LJW rpla.l

Table 10. Ago of male and female heads of families living on small farms, 1974 survey

Age Rural Supplemental Senior Full-time Total Small
Resident Income Citizen Farms
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Not present 3 3 3 2 7 2 11 2 5
Under25 3 6 1 3 1 3
25-34 20 21 18 24 11 13 14 17
35-44 21 28 30 36 22 24 20 25
45-54 37 32 35 21 2 28 24 28 22
55-64 17 10 16 13 11 55 37 27 19 22
65 or over 1 87 36 16 7

Table 11. Children of families living on small farms and other related adults living in the home, 1974 survey

Age of Children
Under Over Children Other Related
5 5.8 9-13 14-17 18 at Home Adults at Home
Rural Resident
% Reporting 22 29 37 34 47 66 7
Average number for
those reporting 1.6 1.2 1.6 1.5 2.3 2.9 1.6
Supplemental Income
% Reporting 22 35 46 47 47 82 6
Average number for
those reporting 1.S 1.5 1.6 1.5 2.3 3.0 1.4
Senior Citizen
% reporting 0 0 0 10 80 13 3
Average number for
those reporting 0 0 0 1.0 3.1 1.0 2.0
% reporting 7 10. 33 36 55 57 5
Average number for
those reporting 1.7 1.0 1.8 1.3 2.2 2.5' 1.0
Total Small Farm
% reporting 16 24 34 36 55 60 6
Average number for
those reporting 1.5 1.3 1.5 1.4 2.5 2.8 1.5

Table 12. Level of formal education and emphasis of high school program, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Total Small.
Resident Income Citizen Full-time Farms
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Eight years or less 17 3 11 5 43 38 26 7 22 11
9-11 years 26 19 18 18 34 43 17 .22 23 24
High school degree 33 63 55 68 16 10 39 59 39 54
Some college or technical 17 13 15 7 7 5 13 10 14 9
College graduate 6. 2 1 1 5 4 2 3 3
High School emphasis
General 57 59 54 72 87 86 65 69 62 69
Agricultural 14 2 37 1 3 20 22 1
Home economics 2 8 12 8 1 8
Rusiness/secretarnal 4 25 7 3 3 13 2 13
Vocational 11 2 6 1 3 10 8 1
College preparation 13 5 3 7 3 10 5 10 6 7

Most of Michigan's families on small farms had
children living at home. As shown in Table 11,
there was considerable difference between the
farm categories with respect to the number and
age of children at home. As would be expected,
the rural resident families and supplemental in-
come families had the youngest children, while the
senior citizen families had the oldest. The senior
citizen families reported the fewest children living
at home and the lowest average number of chil-
dren per family at home.

The supplemental income group had the high-
est percentage of families reporting children at
home, and, along with the rural resident families,

had the highest average number of children living
at home. Over one-third of the farm families re-
ported having children in the 14-17 age group.
This age bracket comprises the best potential
source of meaningful farm labor among the chil-
dren at home. Only 6% of the farm families sur-
veyed reported other related adults living at
Formal Education
As Table 12 indicates, the majority of both the
female and male heads of Michigan's small farm
population received high school degrees. The fe-
males received more education through high
school, but the males received more college educa-

tion and technical training. The percent graduating
from college was about the same for both sexes,
however. The male senior citizen heads were the
least educated, while the male heads in the sup-
plemental income group were the most educated.
The female heads in the rural resident group were
the most educated, but the level of formal educa-
tion for female heads in the supplemental income
and full-time categories was slightly lower. Of
the male and female heads who went to high
school, the majority received general educations.
The second-largest category was agricultural for
the male heads and business/secretarial for the
Living Situation During School Years
More than 90% of the male heads and 75% of the
female heads spent their school years in rural areas
(Table 13). The percentage of male heads was
smallest in the rural resident group, while virtually
the same in the others. The percentage of female
heads spending their school years in rural areas
was also lowest in the rural resident group, but
highest in the senior citizen grouping.
Self-Sufficiency in Food Production
As Table 14 indicates, almost all of Michigan's
small farm families had vegetable gardens, but
only half consumed any meat produced at home

and fewer than one-quarter consumed any milk or
eggs produced at home. The supplemental income
and full-time categories had the highest percentage
consuming meat, milk and eggs produced on the
farm. This might be anticipated because these two
categories have the highest level of agricultural ac-
tivity. About one small farm in eight reported self-
sufficiency in the production of meat, milk and
eggs. The very high percentage of full-time farms
reporting self-sufficiency in milk production re-
flects the high level of dairy activity for this catego-

Reasons for Living on the Farm
Michigan's small farm families have lived an av-
erage of 20 years on their farms (Fig. 5). As ex-
pected, the senior citizens had by far the longest
tenure. The full-time farmers were second, and the
younger rural residents and supplemental income
farmers had the shortest tenure.
When asked for reasons for living in a rural
community, two-thirds of the small-farm families
responded with either appreciation of rural life or
disdain for urban life. As Table 15 indicates, less
than 4% gave employment, retirement or health
reasons. About one in ten, mainly rural resident
and supplemental income farmers, report family
rearing reasons, and about the same percentage,

Table 13. Living situation during school years, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Total Small
Resident Income Citizen Full-time Farms
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Rural 83 64 95 76 93 86 92 72 90 74
Urlman 17 36 5 24 7 14 9 28 10 26

Table 14. Self-sufficiency in food production, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full. Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Vegetable gardens 86 94 91 89 90
Freezing or cunning vegetables 76 89 93 79 84
Consuming home-produced meat 36 75 36 70 56
Producing 100% meat consumed 4 15 9 17 11
Pnxlucing 50%-99% meat consumed 10 23 14 23 17
Producing 1%-49% meat consumed 21 38 14 30 27
Consuming home-produced milk 4 22 9 43 19
Producing 100% milk consumed 3 8 7 40 13
Producing 50%-99% milk consumed 4 2 2
Prmoucing 1%-49% milk consumed 1 10 2 4
Coinsminiig hoimec-produced eggs 12 30 21 30 23
Producing 100% eggs consumed 6 15 9 20 12
Producing 50%-99% eggs consumed 3 4 2 3
Producing 1%-49% eggs consumed 3 11 11 9 8

mainly full-time and supplemental income
families, report agricultural opportunity as their
reason. This latter statistic is very revealing and
suggests that economic considerations had little
impact on the decision to live in rural com-

14 6I

1n 1

Rural Supple-
resident mental


21 20


Full-time Total

Fig. 5. Mean years lived on present farm, 1974 survey.

Goals for the Farm
When asked what annual net cash farm income
they desired from the farm for the next two years,
the mean response was more than double the ac-
tual income earned (Table 16). Rural residents had
the biggest disparity percentagewise. However, in
absolute levels, the range was from $2,959 to

Table 16. Desired and actual net cash farm income,
1974 survey

Rural Supple- Senior Full. Total
Resident mental Citizen time Small
Income Farm
Desired net
cash farm $3,009 $6,278 $5,348 $9,054 $5,721
Actual net
cash farm $ 50 $3,080 $1,930 $4,750 $2,299
income in

Despite the apparent desire to greatly increase
their net cash farm income, only 31% of the small
farm operators anticipate expanding their farm op-
eration over the next two to three years (Table 17).
Half anticipate no changes at all, while one in
eight anticipates retiring or doing less farming.
More senior citizens anticipate decreasing or ter-
minating their operations than any other group.
Conversely, the supplemental income group had
the largest percentage of operators anticipating ex-
pansion. More than one rural resident in three an-
ticipate expanding, and less than one in 13 are con-
sidering decreasing their operations. One full-time

Table 15. Reasons given for living in rural area, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full. Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Employment 6 1 2 3
Retirement 2 1 17 4
Farm opportunity 6 13 10 20 12
Disdain for urban life 15 17 12 15 15
Appreciation of rural life 55 44 55 54 51
Health 2 4 2
Raise family 12 17 2 7 11
Other 3 3 5 2 3

Table 17. Anticipated changes in farm operations during the next two years, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full- Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
No changes 52 46 60 50 51
Do less farming 6 4 17 9 8
Expand farming operation 34 43 3 30 31
Retire from farming 2 4 14 5 5
Other 6 3 6 7 5
Changes Anticipated by Those Anticipating Expansion
Don't know 9 3 50 7 7
Increase livestock numbers 48 30 50 20 26
Increase crop yields 3 13 4
Increase acres fanned 13 30 47 27
Increase livestock production 3 1
Other 30 30 13 26

Years 20


farmer in seven anticipates decreasing his opera-
tion, while three of ten anticipate expanding.
Of those who anticipate expanding their opera-
tions, one in four wishes to either increase acreage
or livestock numbers. Most of the full-time farmers
anticipate increasing acreage, while most of the
rural residents anticipate increasing livestock
numbers. An equal number of supplemental in-
come farmers anticipate increasing livestock, in-
creasing acreage or changing enterprises.
Of those who anticipate expanding their opera-
tions, the mean amount of extra family labor avail-
able was 16/week. Full-time farm families had only
3/week, while all others had between 14 and 20.
When asked to comment on the problems they
faced as small farm operators, the responses fell
into three primary categories. One group com-
plained of high taxes, rapid inflation and other
general economic comments. Another group re-
sponded with anti-government comments. Many
felt the government should not subsidize farming,
that the Extension Service and universities were
not responsive to the needs of small farmers, that
there was too much red tape in government pro-
grams, etc. A third group felt that small farms could
not produce an adequate living without outside
employment. Some expressed their involvement in
agriculture as a hobby or secondary source of in-
come, and were most concerned with economic
conditions that would threaten their off-farm
Family Income
Families on small farms had an average income
of $10,149 in 1973 (Table 18). Approximately two-
thirds of the family income was from wages, one-

quarter from farm sources and the remainder from
government transfer payments (i.e., social security,
retirement and disability payments), investments
and other sources (i.e., pension income).
The supplemental income families blended the
second-highest average net cash farm and wage in-
comes to lead all categories with a $12,109 average.
The rural residents had the greatest wage income,
boosting their net family income average to
$11,466 despite receiving the lowest net cash farm
income. Senior citizens' families received rela-
tively equal amounts of income from all sources to
average $8,360 net family income. These families,
however, had the highest per capital' income of all
categories due to the absence of extra people living
in their household. Full-time farm families had the
lowest average income, $6,557, despite the largest
net cash farm incomes. They received the lowest
wages of all categories, only $1,166 ($22/week).

Poverty Income
Percentagewise, almost half of the full-time farm
families and 30% of the senior citizen families had
incomes below $5,000 in 1973. Only one rural resi-
dent family or supplemental income family in 20
earned below $5,000. Almost two-thirds of those
families received in excess of $10,000, but the
same was true of only one-third of the senior citi-
zen families and one-fifth of the full-time farm

Clearly, poverty exists among some of Michi-
gan's families on small farms by any standards,
even in a year when farm income was relatively
high. However, that poverty is restricted primarily
to the full-time and senior citizen farm categories.

Table 18. Average income per farm family, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full- Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Net cash fann $ $0 3,080 $ 1,930 $4,750 $ 2,299
Transfer payments 144 1 2,933 249 594
Investments 394 155 1,373 176 444
Other income pensions 12 771 216 181
Wages 10.878 8861 1353 1166 6631
Net lnmily income $11,466 $ 1w6 $ F 1149
Per capital 2,874 2,667 3,981 1,946 2,721
Percent Reporting Income Between
$ 042,500 1 3 12 17 7
$ 2,501-5,000 4 3 19 30 11
$ 5,001-47,500 16 11 19 15 15
$ 7,501-$10,000 17 15 16 19 17
$10,000 or more 61 68 35 19 50

Family Income Goals
When asked what minimum income was needed
to support their families, the families on small
farms responded that $486/month was necessary
(Fig. 6). When asked what income was needed for
a comfortable living, the average response was
$707/month. The average net family income ex-
ceeded the average needed for comfort in all
categories except the full-time farmers. This indi-
cates that most of the families on small farms con-
sider their level of consumption comfortable.


Rural Supogementol Senior
redent income Citizen

Fig. 6. Minimum comfortable
come, 1974 survey.

SMi. moetNy Income needed
Comfortable monthly come needed
S Averor reported" monthly $847
Inom* -m

V sA s

s.s I ee 1


Smaol Form

average monthly in-

Off-farm Employment
Off-farm employment is essential to Michigan's
small farm operators. According to the Census of
Agriculture, 52% of all Michigan's farm operators
worked 100 days or more off-farm in 1969. This
percentage was 32% in 1950 and 15% in 1930.
Over two out of three respondents to the 1974
survey indicated that the male head had off-farm
employment. One farm family in four reported the
female head had off-farm employment, and same
number reported another member of the family
had off-farm employment (Table 19).

Within categories, however, there is considera-
ble difference in the amount of off-farm employ-
ment. The overwhelming percentage of male heads
in the senior citizen and full-time farm categories
had no off-farm employment, while virtually all of
the male heads in the other categories had off-farm
employment. Of those employed, the majority
were either craftsmen, foremen or semi-skilled
The employed males worked an average of 41
hr/week and 47 weeks/year. Those in the rural res-
ident and supplemental income categories worked
more than the average and the senior citizens
worked only 37 hr/week and 35 weeks/year. The
full-time farmers who worked off-farm averaged 20
hr/week and 37 weeks/year.

Table 19. Off-farm employment and wage of family members on small farms, 1974 survey
Rural Supplemental Senior Full- Total Small
Kind of Employment Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
No off-farm employment 3 65 1 80 77 85 87 62 32 73
Professional-technical 9 6 4 4 5 8 4 5
Manager, ofcial, proprietor 6 5 7 2 5 -
Clerical 13 5 10 8
Sales 6 2 9 3 2 2 5 5 3
Craftsman or foreman 28 2 25 5 2 3 18 1
Operative (semi-skilled) 44 8 48 1 7 2 2 5 30 4
Nonfarm laborer 3 4 1 2 3 -
Service 6 5 5 8 6
Wage Rate
$ 0-2.50 33 1 20 11 50 33 1 31
$2.51-$3.00 3 4 4 33 22 25 25 33 5 20
$3.01-.3.50 9 29 12 7 11 17 11 18
$3.50-$4.00 16 13 16 13 22 50 17 9
$4.01-$4.75 20 13 34 20 11 25 8 26 15
$4.76-$5.50 31 4 16 25 8 22 4
$5.51-$6.25 8 8 7 -
$6.26-over 13 4 7 7 22 10 4
Ave. no. hr/week 43 31 41 32 37 34 20 32 41 32
Weeks in 1973
Weeks worked in 1973 50 43 47 42 35 49 37 33 47 41


Almost half of the male heads working off-farm
earned between $4 and $5.50/hr, while one in
three earned less than $4/hr. The rural residents
received the highest hourly wage, followed by the
supplemental income male heads.
The senior citizens had been at their jobs long-
est, over 20 years, while the full-time male heads
had been at their jobs only 5 years (Table 20). The
senior citizens, although at their jobs longer, re-
ceived the lowest hourly wage. Two-thirds of
those employed received less than $4/hr. Most of
the male heads received fringe benefits including
life insurance (62%), health-hospitalization insur-
ance (80%), paid vacation (82%) and retirement
other than social security (55%). These fringe
benefits were received primarily by the supple-
mental income and rural resident heads and to a
lesser degree by the senior citizens. The full-time
farm heads did not receive any fringe benefits,
probably because they did not work full-time at
off-farm employment. The male heads drove an
average of 17 miles each way to their jobs.
Data from the 1974 survey indicates the impor-
tance of off-farm employment to the male heads of
Michigan's small farm operators. Of the female
heads with off-farm employment, most worked in
service, clerical or professional-technical areas (Ta-
ble 19). Wives of full-time and rural resident male
heads were employed more than the others.
On the average, those employed worked 32 hr/
week and 41 weeks/year. Little difference was
shown between the categories in hours worked
per week. The female heads of full-time farms
worked the fewest weeks, while those of senior
citizen farms worked the most. The female heads
had been at their present jobs an average of 9
years (Table 20). As with the male heads, the sen-
ior citizen female heads had the longest job ten-

The female heads received much lower hourly
wages than the male heads. More than two of
every three women employed received less than
$3.50/hr and three in ten received less than
$2.50/hr. The senior citizen women were also the
lowest paid, followed by the full-time farm cate-
gory female heads. Fringe benefits were paid to a
smaller percentage of female heads than male
heads, although there was less disparity among
the small farm categories. Only 25% received life
insurance, 43% health and hospitalization insur-
ance, 52% paid vacations, and 37% retirement
benefits other than social security. The female
heads drove about 12 miles each way to their jobs.

Farm Assets, Debts and Net Worth
The mean value of land, buildings, machinery
and livestock reported by small farm respondents
in 1974 was $67,124. The mean farm and consum-
er debt was $6,291 and the mean farm net worth
was $61,772 (Table 21). Both supplemental in-
come and full-time categories had average agricul-
tural land and buildings values in excess of $60,-
000. However, the full-time farms had twice the
value of livestock and one and one-half times the
value of machinery as that owned by the supple-
mental income group. The supplemental income
group had somewhat more farm and consumer
debt than the full-time farms. Thus, in terms of
farm net worth, the average of the full-time farm-
ers ($89,170) was substantially more than that of
the supplemental income farmers ($77,440).
Senior citizen farms had land and buildings
worth more than $50,000, but somewhat lower
than average holdings of machinery and livestock.

Table 20. Job tenure, distance and fringe benefits for families on small farms, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full. Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Years at present occupation 12 9 14 9 22 12 5 8 14 9
Miles driven to job, one way 22 13 15 9 7 13 8 13 17 12
Fringe Benefits Percent with fringe benefits
Life insurance 68 36 64 13 40 31 62 25
Health-hospitalization 85 55 82 44 70 20 31 80 43
Paid vacation 86 64 88 50 50 40 39 82 52
Retiremennt other than
social security 63 48 56 20 30 40 39 55 37

Table 21. Farm assets, debts and net worth for families on small farms, 1974 survey

Rural Supplemental Senior Full- Total Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Land and farm buildings $40,970 $61,020 $50,410 $63,660 $53,723
Machinery 3.760 10,890 5,000 14,810 8,488
Livestock 1,230 5,530 3,570 10,700 4,913
Total assets $45,960 $77,440 $58,980 $89,170 $67,124
Farm debt 7,280 6,380 950 5,410 5,352
Farm net worth $38,680 $71,060 $58,030 $83,760 $61,772
Consumer debt 1,890 1,000 310 590 939
Percent Distribution Farm Net Worth
$ 0-$ 20,000 21 1 9 4 9
$ 20,001-$ 40,000 39 21 22 19 26
$ 40,001-$ 70,000 24 38 42 21 31
$ 70,001-8100,000 16 19 22 17 18
$100,000-over 21 4 .38 15

Table 22. Average acres in crops and percent of total crop acres by small farm category, 1974 survey

Alfalfa Corn Corn Other
Clover for for Wheat Other Soy- Pasture Fruit Cash Idle Total
Hay Silage Grain Grain beans Crops
Rural Resident
Acres 7 1 5 2 2 5 1 1 11 34
Percent 20 2 14 7 5 1 15 2 4 30
Supplemental Income
Acres 17 4 25 6 5 9 13 2 1 9 90
Percent 19 5 27 6 6 9 14 2 1 9
Senior Citizen
Acres 8 2 8 6 4 1 7 2 4 4 45
Percent 17 4 17 14 9 3 15 4 8 9
Acres 24 11 32 5 6 9 24 6 5 6 128
Percent 19 9 24 4 5 7 19 5 4 4
Total Small Farms
Acres 14 4 17 5 4 5 12 1 2 8 72
Percent 19 6 23 7 6 7 16 2 3 11

As a category, they had the lowest level of debt,
only 1.6% of total farm worth, of any small farm
group. The rural residents had the lowest average
value of land, buildings, machinery and livestock.
In addition, they had the highest absolute and per-
centage level of farm and consumer debt. Their
farm net worth averaged only $38,680.

Cropland Usage
According to the small farm surveys, the main
crops in 1973 were corn, hay and pasture. These
uses account for almost two of every three acres re-
ported (Table 22). In addition, more than one acre
in ten was reported idle or in government pro-
grams. The average acreage used for crop pur-
poses was 72 per small farm.
The rural resident had an average of 34 acres
used, the lowest of any category. Almost one-third
of that acreage was idle, while half was in corn,

hay and pasture. Senior citizen farmers reported
only 45 crop acres. Slightly more than half of their
acreage was in corn, hay and pasture, with wheat
as the fourth major usage. Supplemental income
farmers had an average of 90 acres in crops. Corn,
hay and pasture comprised almost two-thirds of
their acreage, with soybeans and idle acreage as
the next most important usages.
The greatest average acreage, 128 acres, was re-
ported by the full-time farmers. More than seven
of every ten acres was reported in corn, hay and
pasture. Soybeans was the next most important
crop, with the percentage of idle acres being the
smallest usage.
Another view of cropping practices is afforded
by examination of the average acreage planted by
those actually planting a particular crop. As Table
23 indicates, the average number of acres planted
by those planting had a range of 16 acres for small

grains to 31 for forage crops. The rural residents
had the lowest average acreage planted by those
planting, ranging from 10 acres of soybeans to 19
acres of alfalfa, clover or hay. The senior citizens
were second lowest in average acres, ranging from
12 acres of fruit to 28 acres of pasture.
The supplemental income farmers led in aver-
age acreage in both corn for grain and silage and
in fruit. Their averages ranged from 16 for other
grains to 33 acres of fruit. In all but one of the
other categories the full-time farmers had the high-
est average acreage per farm reporting, ranging
from 16 acres of other grains to 44 acres of alfalfa,
clover and hay.
Yield measures are also important in analyzing
the cropping practices of Michigan's small farms.
As Table 24 indicates, the rural resident category
had the lowest yields, except for wheat, where
their yields are highest. Supplemental income
farms had the next-lowest yields, excepting corn
for grain where their average was the highest. The
full-time farms had yields just lower than those
of senior citizens, whose tended to be the highest.
Soil Type
The major categories of soil type reported by
Michigan's small farms were sandy-loam and clay-
loam. These two accounted for 8 of every 10 re-
sponses to the question of major soil type in the
1974 survey. Over half of the remaining responses
gave clay as the major soil type. There was not
much difference in soil type between farm cate-

Table 23. Average acreage planted by those planting,
1974 survey
Supple. Total
Rural mental Senior Full- Small
Resident Income Citizen time Farm
Alfalfa, clover, hay 19 33 23 44 31
Corn for silage 14 21 15 20 20
Corn for grain 14 31 25 21 30
Wheat 13 18 19 21 18
Other grain 12 16 20 16 16
Soybeans 10 30 14 32 28
Pasture 17 32 28 35 29
Fruit 11 33 12 28 19
Other cash crops 17 27
Idle 28 28 23 21 26

Table 24. Three-year average yields by small farm cate-
gory, 1974 survey

Alfalfa (tons)
Corn silage (tons)
Corn grain (bu)
Wheat (bu)
Soybeans (bu)





Full- Small
time Farm
2.8 2.5
13.7 11.3
87 86
39 41
25 24

The 1974 survey reveals that there is not much
livestock production on small farms (Table 25). On-
ly 27% report beef herds, 15% report poultry flocks,
15% report dairy herds and 11% report swine. Sup-
plemental income farms reported the highest per-
centage of beef (36%), swine (18%) and poultry

Table 25. Livestock numbers on farms reporting and percent farms reporting, 1974 survey

Beef cows
lBeIf calves Iorn
Calves sold
Selling weight calves (Ib)
Feeder calves bought
Ave. weight calves bought (Ib)
Feeder cattle sold
No. litters farrowed
Ave. no. pigs weaned
Feeder pigs sold
Feeder pigs bought
Market pigs sold
Ave. no. laying hens
Doz. eggs sold/hen
Ave. no. milk cows
Cwt milk/cow
A Market
B Market

%of No. per
Farms Farm
17 14
13 8
7 7
7 543
14 5
13 132
8 5

%of No. per
Farms Farm
36 25
19 16
10 16
9 545
29 20
21 250
23 21

7 25 21
1 15 5

% of No. per
Farms Farm
27 13
22 7
11 6
9 429
16 7
4 95
4 14

%of No. per
Farms Farm
28 20
19 14
6 21
6 350
26 25
19 289
21 28

Total Small
% of No. per
Farms Farm
27 20
18 12
9 12
8 489
21 17
15 223
15 20

48 16 203 15 40 15 73
12 7 12 2 15 4 12

8 9
60 9

: 19

19 15
119 10

(21%). Full-time farms had the highest percentage
of dairy (45%), while the rural residents had the,
lowest percentage of farms reporting all categories
of livestock (Table 12).
The average beef herd had almost 20 cows. The
supplemental income and full-time farmers' herds
were largest and reported the greatest number of
calves born. Both report high numbers of feeders
purchased and at double the weight of similar pur-
chases in the other categories. Full-time farmers,
however, sold their calves at the lowest weight.
The average swine farm had 70 pigs born in
1973 and purchased almost 30 feeders. Full-time
farmers had the largest swine operations with
heavy emphasis on farrowing, while supplemental
income herds were somewhat smaller and empha-
sized feeding. Senior citizens had the highest
number of pigs weaned per litter while rural resi-
dents had the smallest.
The average poultry flock had 73 birds, but only
one in four produced eggs that were sold. Of those
that did sell eggs, the average number sold per
chicken was 12 dozen. Rural residents and full-
time farms sold the most eggs per bird, while
senior citizens had the biggest flocks.
The average dairy herd had almost 16 cows and
sold 11,700 lb of milk per cow. Senior citizens and
full-time farmers' herds were largest and each sold
11,900 lb/cow. The highest production occurred on
rural resident farms at 13,000 lb/cow, while the
supplemental income farms had the smallest herds
and production. Almost seven of every ten dairy
farms sold milk on an A market.

Farm Labor Utilization
The mean labor hours utilized on Michigan
small farms was reported to be 2,264 on the 1974
survey (Fig. 7). The male head supplied about 60%
of the labor, the female head 25%, children 12%
and hired labor 3%. There was considerable differ-
ence in total labor utilized between the four small
farm categories, with less variation in the source
of that labor. Full-time farmers utilized the most la-
bor, almost 85 hr/week, supplemental income
farmers utilized almost 49 hr/week, senior citizen
farms about 29 hr/week, and rural resident farms
less than 19 hr/week.
Assuming the quality mix of the labor input be-
tween the categories to be equal, some comment
can be made on the efficiency of that labor. Using
gross income per hour of labor as an indicator, the
supplemental income farms were the most effi-
cient, followed by senior citizen farms," full-time
farms and rural residents. Using net income per


Fig. 7. Hours of labor utilized on small farms by fam-
ily members and hired labor, 1974 survey.

hour of labor the only change that occurs is be-
tween the senior citizen and supplemental income
groups. This measure was between $1.08-$1.30/hr
for the top three groups, but only $0.06/hr for the
rural residents.

Alternatives for Increased Income on the Small Farm
Operators of small farms must be willing to
make changes in their management practices and
enterprises if income is to be increased. Although
many questions about alternative ways income
can be increased still remain unanswered, some
generalizations can be made from this research.
These general areas include income goals for the
farm business, a higher percent of the cropland in
harvested crops, increased productivity from the
crop and livestock enterprises, shifting to more
profitable enterprises and increased margins from
the production enterprises.
Although a desire for larger net farm income,
was expressed, only about 30% of the small farm
operators anticipate expanding their operation to
achieve higher income. Over half anticipated no
change and the remainder desired to decrease
their farming operation or retire from farming. In-
creasing the number of acres or livestock held was
the most common change anticipated. Few plan
on changing technical practices.
If incomes are to be increased on small farms,
positive action through management decisions
must be made.
Analysis of 1969 Michigan Ccnsus of Agricul-
ture data showed that only four of every ten acres
on the average small farm are used for harvested

crops, compared to six of every ten acres on a conm-
mercial farm. If maximum returns are to be ob-
tained from the limited resources on the small
farm, the land must be used more intensively in
harvested crops than it appears to be at present.
Further research is needed to determine why this
land is not being used for crop production. Does
the quality of land prevent more intensive
cropping? Is the land more suited for pasture? Do
capital improvements (tilling, leveling, etc.) need
to be made on the land to make it more produc-
tive? Is the land idle because off-farm employ-
ment results in limited labor? If an individual
fanner wants to achieve higher income, the pres-
ent land use must be analyzed.

Productivity in crop enterprises is another area
where income could be increased on the small
farm. Analysis of census information and survey
data shows that yields on small farms are 12% to
30% below yields for commercial farms. Are lower
yields the result of limited soil capability, improp-
er technical practices or inadequate production
inputs? These questions still remain for further in-
vestigation. Although maximum yields may not be
the most profitable level of production, applying
inputs and using practices to reach the soil capabil-
ity maximizes returns from cropping programs given
favorable price relationships.
Livestock productivity also appears to be low on
the small farms. Survey results show a 60% calf
crop from beef cows versus a possible goal of 90%.
The swine farrowing operations showed 6.5 pigs
weaned per litter, compared to 7.5 or 8 pigs
weaned per litter on well-managed swine opera-
tions. Dairy farms showed milk production per cow
1,000 lb less than indicated by Telfarm records.
Why is livestock productivity lower on the smaller
farms? Again, the answer is not known.
Farm management budgets show corn, soybeans
and wheat as relatively high-valued field crops, but
Table 26 shows small farms with a high percent of
the cropland in low-return crops such as pasture
and idle land. Because the small farm has less beef
and dairy production than larger farms, the amount
of land in hay probably is large.
If small farms are to maximize returns from the
cropping program, the operators must consider
shifting crop enterprises to higher-valued crops.
Another important question is what small fruit and
vegetable crops are suited for the small farm? Sur-
vey results show that except for the full-time small
farms, dairy is not very important on the small
farm. One might conclude that the type of livestock
is influenced by the amount and availability of

labor for the livestock enterprise. Certainly this re-
sulted in. many small farm operators choosing beef
cows as a livestock enterprise instead of swine or
poultry. In the past, cow-calf enterprises have not
been as profitable on the farm as swine. If larger
income is desired, can another livestock enterprise
replace beef?
Margins (return above direct costs) for agricul-
tural products were low during the 1950s and
1960s and increased during the 1970s. Income data
were collected from small farm operators during
1973, a year when prices received by farmers and
margins were relatively high. Whether margins
will remain at a higher level is unknown. Although
individual small farm operators cannot influence
the general price levels, they can influence mar-
gins through high levels of productivity and good
buying practices for inputs and marketing practices
for products sold.

Table 26. Crops grown on small farms and commercial
farms from Telfarm records, 1973 (*

Small Telfarm
Farms Records


Percent Tillable Land
Corn 29 42
Wheat 7 5
Soybeans 7 5
Small grains 6 4
H ay 19 18
Pasture 16 5
Idle 11 7
Other crops 5 14
( Soour 1974 Survey of Smell Fain. awn Michwin i m uFarm ln Analysis Sn.-
may. 1973 Da. AgriMaural Economicl Rept. No. 273 MIchicnm State
Unalv sty. Emt LnsinS. Michigan.

Small Farm Problem Areas
Needing Additional Research
Many research questions were raised in the pre-
vious section on increasing income on the small
farm. In addition to these questions, the following
are offered as discussion points in developing
further research projects.
One major research area is farm land usage.
Beyond the knowledge that the rural land to ag-
riculture is declining, little is known about the
shifting patterns of agricultural land use. Who is
likely to purchase agricultural land in the future -
the commercial farmer or the small farm operator?
What is the implication for Michigan's agriculture
if more land is purchased by part-time farmers?
Will the animal industry in the state decline as a
result? Should government policy such as property
taxation, land use controls, etc., favor the commer-
cial farmer or the small farm operator?

For small farm operators presently in business,
what is the application of newer production prac-
tices and techniques to the small farm? For exam-
ple, what is the least-cost system for a small farm?
Should machinery services be leased rather than
Should the small farmer use chemical weed con-
trol or rely more on field cultivation? Should he
follow the same technical practices as the larger
farmer? What is the least-cost facilities system for
the small livestock enterprise? What is the role of
capital on a small farm with limited labor resources
or with surplus family labor? Are capital and credit
available from existing sources?
Research is also needed on specialty crops that
could be suited to the small farm. What small fruit
and vegetable crops are applicable to the small
farm? What market should be used? Pick your
own? Roadside stands?
What complementary relationships among the
small and large farm could be identified for poten-
tial linkage to the advantage of both parties?
Should the small farm operator contract for the
harvest and sale of feed grains and forages to his
neighboring commercial farmers who are expand-
ing their livestock enterprises? Could the part-
retired dairy farmer raise replacement heifers for
the neighboring commercial dairy farm?

Extension Programs for Small Farm Operators
The Cooperative Extension Serivce must specify
its audiences by farm goals and production enter-
prises to meet small farm operators' needs. Sepa-
rate programs organized for small farm operators
can then be directed toward problems on the small
farm. Assistance can be obtained from township
supervisors in identification of small farm
operators, so materials and announcements of edu-
cational programs will reach the audience for
which they are intended.
Extension programs can be directed toward the
unique problems for each small farm category.
Rural residents' education programs will be dif-
ferent from the part-retired farmer or the full-time
small farmer. The solution to problems of poverty
income for some small farm operators could be
tackled, as well as disinvestment questions for the
part-retired farmer. Retirement planning seminars
could be organized for farmers nearing retirement.
Many specific examples could be given. Advisory
groups organized within counties representing var-
ious categories of farmers could suggest areas for

Present educational program methods now used
with commercial farmers will serve the needs of
small farm operators. For example, farm tours or-
ganized for part-time farmers could be developed
to show the technical production and management
practices possible on a well-managed farm. Be-
cause of off-farm employment time conflicts, tours
and educational group meetings need to be held on
Saturday or early evenings.

Group meetings organized on technical produc-
tion and management practices would use exam-
ples and materials that fit the small farm situation.
Study clubs could be organized for presenting in-
formation to groups. Volunteer leaders (i.e., part-
retired farmers) might be organized to help teach
and counsel the clientele.

Because of the large number of small farms, in-
dividual contact would be limited unless volunteer
leaders can be utilized or para-professional assist-
ance hired by Extension. Texas and Missouri are
two states that use para-professionals successfully
in their Extension programs.

Mass media efforts through radio and newspaper
is another method to be used in reaching the small
farm operator.

Extension materials that address concerns on the
small farm need to be developed. As newer techni-
cal practices are researched, the application to
commercial and smaller farms can be delineated.
Enterprise materials need to cover the technical
production and management practices applicable
to a small enterprise, including both the how-to-do-
it and reasons for using the practices. Production
and management correspondence courses could be
developed for those who need a basic understand-
ing of production agriculture. Extension materials
should be distributed through input suppliers such
as country elevators and finance institutions as
well as through normal Extension channels.

Small farm operators have agricultural produc-
tion and management problems that can be more
fully addressed with research and Extension pro-
grams. The challenge to the land grant institution is
obtaining additional resources and more elective
use of present resources so the educational needs
of both the commercial and small farm operators
can be met. A better knowledge of the situation on
the small farm and discussion of alternative ways
these problems can be tackled will result in prob-
lem solution through educational programs.

3-76 5M

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