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Farms in Western North Carolina are much smaller than the national and state averages. In 2012, the average farm size in the United States was 434 acres, compared to 168 acres in North Carolina. Farms in Western North Carolina averaged only 91 acres in 2012.
Average farm size in Western North Carolina counties fluctuates over time. According to statistics from the USDA Census of Agriculture, average regional farm size in 1997 was 88 acres, rising slightly to 89 acres in 2002, falling to 84 acres in 2007, and rising again to 91 acres in 2012. However, note that data before 2002 may not be comparable with those from later years due to improvements in census coverage and survey methods. Therefore, direct comparisons between 1997 data with data from later periods should be avoided.
In the Western North Carolina region, larger farms can be found in Alleghany County—an average of 160 acres, close to the state average—followed by Wilkes (114 acres), Cleveland (113 acres), Yadkin (106 acres), and Surry (101 acres) counties. Smaller farms, on average, are seen in Avery (58 acres), Graham (64 acres), Jackson (66 acres), Buncombe (67 acres), and Mitchell (68 acres) counties.
Any decrease in average farm size affects the region’s ability to produce food. Coupled with anticipated regional population increases, regional vulnerability also rises as we become more dependent on food raised outside of the local region.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service. Census of Agriculture. Accessed October 2015 from: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/. Statistics used are "total farm operations," "average acres per farm," and "total farm acres" from 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012. Farms are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced or sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year.