By MIKE CORN
Kansas lost nearly 4,000 farms in the last five years, according to preliminary estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kansas now has 61,773 farms.
The loss didn't have a big effect on the average size of farms, now standing at approximately 747 acres per farm.
Thursday's reports, covering data at the national and state level, is the first release of information from the census of agriculture, taken every five years by USDA.
Much like the census taken every 10 years, the census of agriculture ultimately provides a treasure trove of information about farming in Kansas and other states.
In Kansas, farmers continue getting older, now at an average age of 58.2 years old. In 2007, the average age was 57.7.
Ironically, there were fewer farmers who were less than 25 years old compared to five years ago. In 2012, Kansas had only 352 farmers younger than 25; in 2007, there were 417.
While it's likely many of those simply bumped up into the next age bracket, the 75 year old and older category decreased sharply. In 2007, that group of aging farmers numbered 9,162 compared to the 2012 estimate of 8,735.
The market value of farm products sold by the state's farm jumped dramatically in the five years since the last census, by almost $4 billion, most of that the result of sharply higher commodity prices. In 2012, that market value was put at $18.5 billion.
Small farms continue to make up the biggest share of farms in the state.
Farms with less than $50,000 in sales numbered nearly 40,000, a decrease from 44,864 five years ago.
But farms with sales of $1 million or more now number 2,428 -- up sharply from 1,837 in 2007. Farms with sales between $250,000 and $1 million now number 7,318, an increase from 6,331 in 2007.
For the most part, farming in Kansas is an almost exclusively performed by whites.
Only 920 farms were operated by minorities, with Hispanics accounting for approximately two-thirds of that small slice.
Men also dominate the farming landscape. Just shy of 55,000 farms are operated by men, while only 6,783 women reported operating farms. That female-operated number is a decrease from nearly 8,000 in 2007.
The vast majority of female-operated farms are operated by women 45 and older. Most of the farms are smaller, with sales of less than $50,000.