The latest data from USDA-ERS suggests that nearly 40% of U.S. farms are run by more than one operator.
From the agency’s featured chart on Jan. 26, ERS notes: “Commercial-sized farms often require more management and labor than an individual can provide. Having a secondary operator may also provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming.”
The incidence of multiple operators does indeed correlate with farm size. Different so-called small farms had multiple operators between 34% and 40% of the time, while this is true of midsize family farms 45% of the time and 55% of the time for large family farms. On non-family farms, nearly all (85%) are managed by multiple operators.
“Because nearly all farms are family owned, family members often serve as secondary operators; nearly two-thirds of all secondary operators were spouses of principal operators,” ERS notes.
This data was obtained by the 2015 Agricultural Resource Management Survey.