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While all sizes grew, an average-sized farm went from 371 to 388 acres since last census.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

March 19, 2024

3 Min Read
 Connor Danielson from Willmar, Minn.
FFA PROUD: Connor Danielson hopes to farm full time someday, but for now he runs a few acres while also attending Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn. He credits his FFA experience at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School with giving him knowledge about agriculture. He earned the top proficiency award for Diversified Crop Production, Entrepreneurship at the 2023 Minnesota State FFA Convention. Kevin Schulz

Connor Danielson’s inspiration for farming was his grandfather, even though his grandfather had retired before Danielson was born.

“He kept some of his equipment, and I would always follow him around,” says Danielson, who is a student at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn.

He also spent a lot of time at his uncle’s hobby farm. “I kind of grew up out there, so that got me into farming,” he says.

Danielson started helping neighbors in the Atwater area, at first picking rocks. Then he helped another neighbor who needed part-time help through the summer with chickens, among other things.

That was in 2018, and that farmer said he would help Danielson farm some land if he could find some to rent.

Danielson went back to the farmer he originally picked rocks for to see about renting some land, “so he rented me 11 acres that year,” says Danielson, who used that land as the basis for his FFA supervised agricultural experience project that earned him a trip to the National FFA Convention.

Data from the 2022 ag census that was released in February shows Danielson fits into a couple of boxes, as Minnesota farms of all sizes grew from 2017, including those on the small size.

An infographic detailing agriculture in Minnesota

While many bemoan the loss of small farms, the number of farms with 1 to 9 acres grew from 1,974 five years ago to 2,189 in 2022. Farms with 500 acres or more grew from 2,183 in 2017 to 2,599 in 2022.

Farms with 10 to 49 acres grew from 4,365 to 5,672; 50 to 179 acres grew from 4,741 to 5,305; and the farms with 180 to 499 acres grew from 2,869 in 2017 to 3,149 farms in this latest census.

The average-sized farm in Minnesota is 388 acres in 2022, up from 371 in 2017.

Aging, but youth movement

While the Minnesota farmer continues to age from 56.5 in 2017 to 57.1 in 2022, and all age categories saw growth, there is also hope, as about 500 people younger than 25 were added to the ranks since the last census.

While Danielson may not be the stereotypical starting farmer in Minnesota, he shares the same dreams with many young farmer hopefuls across the Gopher State.

“If I could farm full time right now, I would do it,” he says, “but I don’t have that option at this point in time.”

Knowing full-time farming is not currently an option for him, Danielson is working toward an associate degree in ag mechanics as a fallback, but that also will serve him well on the farm.

“I've always enjoyed working with my hands, working on the equipment, and I've always enjoyed putzing with my own equipment, so I decided to go to school for it, and then I could use this on the farm if I ever do get the opportunity to farm full time. … It’s almost impossible to get into because it’s really expensive, so this way I can live off this income, and I can use it to help me farm.”

Of the 114,000-plus total farmers in Minnesota, more than 68,000 worked off the farm, with over 45,000 working 200 days or more off the farm to supplement their farm income. Almost 64,000 producers considered off-farm employment to be their main occupation.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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