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Who Owns Massachusetts Farmland?

Massachusetts Agricultural Census 2012

Figure 6.5 shows the amount of land in farms by age and by primary occupation of the principal farm operator for 2012. Over 61 percent of Massachusetts farmland was owned by operators who said their primary occupation is farming in 2012, with the remaining 39 percent owned by farmers with some other primary occupation. These percentages were just slightly different in 2007, when about 63 percent of the land was owned by operators who said their primary occupation was farming. In 2007, the oldest three age cohorts of farm operators (45 through 65 and over) accounted for nearly 86 percent of Massachusetts farmland. In 2012, these three age cohorts accounted for 91 percent of Massachusetts farmland. The youngest three age cohorts operate about 9 percent of Massachusetts farmland, down from 14 percent in 2007. Massachusetts farm operators are aging. To underscore this, nearly 36 percent of Massachusetts farmland is operated by farmers who were age 65 years or over in 2012. In 2007, that age group operated about 29 percent of the farmland. We are uncertain whether these operators have younger family members or partners waiting to take over the farm operations. If not, the census data suggest Massachusetts may see a significant loss of farmland in the coming years. This trend toward aging farm population has continued for the past decade for operators who consider farming their primary occupation (Figure 6.6) and part-time farmers (Figure 6.7). In each graph, we see a substantial increase in the number of acres owned by farmers in the 65 and over age category.