Number of Kansas farms declines as average farm size grows

The Kansas Agriculture Department released its 2012 Census of Agriculture, which states the number of Kansas farms has decreased by 6% since 2007.
Michael and Mary Ann Horgan have owned a small farm in Cherokee County for the past 5 decades.
Over the years, they have witnessed how the farming industry is changing.
“When I was farming earlier, seed, fertilizer, spray, fuel, repairs, everything was less than $100,” said farmer Michael Horgan.
Horgan says that is no longer the case.
Corn seed is now up to $300 a bag. One bag will cover approximately 3 acres.
“It’s hard to get enough money together to plant a crop,” Horgan said.
And difficult to get enough acres.
Don Watson is a third generation farmer in Cherokee County.
While his grandfather was able to feed 9 children off just 80 acres, Watson and his son currently farm a combined 3,000 acres together to make the same living.
“It’s not just the Kansas farmer, it’s the American farmer,” Watson said. “He has to keep growing, he has to keep getting more land because production cost is so high.”
Watson says the cost of equipment is constantly increasing, a long with the cost of land, which he estimates is now up to $2,000 an acre.
“I think it would almost be impossible to get started farming if you were a young man that didn’t have somewhere to start,” he said.
That is why he expects the number of farms in the state to continue to decrease.
“There are going to be fewer and fewer farms,” Watson said.
Horgan expects there to be even fewer small independent farmers due to many selling their land to larger farms.
“Within 20 years, most of the farms will be corporate farms,” he said.
Horgan says corporate farms diminish some of the passion.
“If I was working for corporate, I’m not sure that I would work the hours that I work for myself,” he said.
While the future in the industry is unknown, both say they won’t be selling acres anytime soon.
“You have to keep growing, however you can afford to do it,” Watson said.
“Circumstances change,” Horgan said. “I said no I wouldn’t sell it. But circumstances tomorrow, I may have to.”
Despite the farm decline, high school agriculture programs are on the rise, but with a focus more on genetic engineering or urban forestry.
And Future Farmers of America membership is currently up to 580,000.