Nationwide, 98 percent of farms are family owned; however, the average South Dakota farm is triple the size of the average American farm — and growing larger. Currently, only farms in Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming exceed South Dakota’s 1,366-acre average. “There are some farms that are incredibly large, and they’re still family operations,” says Alvaro Garcia, professor and director of South Dakota State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program. More than 50 percent of South Dakota farms have sales of less than $100,000 a year. According to South Dakota State University Professor Matthew Elliott, it’s likely that the owners of such operations have a job in town or are farming on the side. Statewide, South Dakota lost 600 farms in the smallest sales class — those selling less than $10,000 a year. “Smaller operations, in order to remain profitable, tend to expand. The big ones also tend to expand,” Garcia says. Overall, half of U.S. farms have sales of less than $10,000 a year.
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