Essay #1: Agricultural Historical Statistics of the US
When trying to come up with a good estimate for items such as total number of farms, average value of land per acre, and total farm population, the US Bureau of the Census had a rather arduous task of defining what is meant by the word farm.
The Census Bureau outlined the definition of a farm but that figure varied from year to year. Most recently though a farm was found to be any place of less than 10 acres that had estimated sales of agricultural products of at least $250 per year. Places of 10 or more acres were considered farms as long as they sold agricultural products amassing $50 or more. To me this is not an accurate measurement because they were under the assumption that households who owned land and sold goods were to be labeled as farms.
In all actuality though an elderly couple with an acre of land and a healthy garden could sell enough vegetables at their church sale to be counted as farmers and owners of a farm. This is obviously not the case. I do think that it is necessary to compromise somewhat on the definition of a farmer but still the person defined as a farmer should have his/her farm account for at least x%, perhaps 40%, of total income. This would be a more accurate measure of a typical farmer and not just a person who occasionally sells corn or strawberries.
Other assumptions that the Census Bureau must have made were that the farmers would answer honestly to their questions and that they had an accurate account of their current inventory including newborns and exact acreage concerning pasture versus cropland just to name a few. Few farmers know exactly how many acres of beans they have planted or how many sheep they have until it is time to vaccinate or sell off some of their heard.
A general estimate would probably be easier for them to give and consequently that is what the bureau received.
By the measures that the Census Bureau used they had to have compromised on the actual value of a typical farm. This is because by their definition a billionaire with 5 acres of land whos wife sells 50 roses every year for $20 each would count as a farmer. His 5 acres and his $25,000,000 home would also count as a farm buildings which would is not really the case.