Off-farm income contributed an average of 82% of total income for family farms in 2019, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis.  

Almost all farm households in 2019 derived some income from off-farm sources, such as pensions, investment income, or wages and salary from an off-farm job. But small family farms — defined in this instance as having income less than $350,000 — depended on it the most.

About half of U.S. farms, according to the USDA, are considered very small, with annual farm sales under $10,000. Small-scale operators of these farms tend to rely on off-farm sources for most of their household income. 

In small “off-farm occupation” farms, where the operator reports a main occupation that’s not farming, off-farm sources of income in 2019 made up 84% of all earnings.

In contrast, “very large” farms, with an annual gross cash farm income of $5 million or more, earned only 7% of their total income from off-farm sources in 2019. 

Amanda Perez Pintado is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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