The United States Department of Agriculture recently reported that the overwhelming majority of farms in the United States are family-owned businesses.

About 2.1 million farms in the U.S., 97 percent are what the report calls “family farms,”according to the the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology.

The report defines family farms as operations that have the operator and relatives — either by blood, marriage or adoption — as the majority owners.

Other key facts included in the report stated that 88 percent of those 2.1 million farms are classified as “small family farms” — operations with a gross cash farm income (GCFI) of less than $350,000 per year. Those small family farms contribute nearly 60 percent of  all direct sales of product from farms to consumers.

According to the same census looking specifically in Huntington County there were almost 700 farms in the county in 2012 with an average annual sales of roughly $250,000 per farm.

In terms of why family farms are so numerous Huntington County Purdue Extension Educator Ed Farris explained that the main reason has to do with legacies. He mentioned that many farms in the county have been operated over multiple generations by the same line.

“I think a lot of people just see the value of having a farm stay in the family for generations,” Farris remarked. He explained that one of his jobs with the Extension involves working with a statewide succession planning team in order to help farmers looking to continue their operations through their lineage.

One such Huntington County farmer operating a family-owned business is Brian Warpup. He is the fourth generation of his family to operate their Warren farm, which he said had been in operation for roughly a century.

Warpup said he thought the reason for the persistence of family farms has to do with the lifestyle.

“Every generation sees the work that it takes to grow up on the farm,” Warpup said. “I’m a farmer not because my dad was a farmer...I really enjoy the lifestyle.”

“I feel that with a family business you tend to take care of it a little bit more,” Warpup added. “The people who were taking care of it before you, you personally knew them.”

Warpup explained some of the benefits of having an operation with history in the community, including both economic benefit and general well-being.

“You’re keeping people within the county that care about the county,” Warpup said. “A lot of our farmers hold government offices. They are on boards within the county, and they are very active in the county.”

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