Farming on the Edge

The nation's best farmland in the path of development.

35 years ago, visionary farmland conservationists founded American Farmland Trust.

Our innovative policies and programs – and staff around the country – lead a national movement to save the land, soil, water and people needed to feed America. And the world.

Almost 20 years ago, we released the groundbreaking report, Farming on the Edge, which vividly demonstrated how sprawling development was consuming America's highest quality farmland in key regions of the country.

At the time of its release in 1997, and when it was updated in 2002, the Farming on the Edge report was a wake up call to people all over the country about how poorly planned development and urban sprawl were destroying our nation's most productive farmland.

Now in 2015, we are embarking on an updated and improved version of Farming on the Edge. Called "The State of America's Farmland," it will be a national tool for advancing the cause of America's farmers and farmland, and the most comprehensive national snapshot of farmland conservation ever created.

Be the first to know as results from this critical project become available – sign up for our monthly e-newsletter The Dirt. For a look back at the results from our last survey of farmland in the path of development, including the 20 most imperiled states, check out the results below.

Twenty States Losing the Most Prime Farmland 1992-1997

  • Texas Map:
    Agriculture is the second largest industry in Texas and the nation's second-leading agricultural-producing state. The sale of cattle and calves accounts for 51 percent of all agricultural sales, followed by greenhouse and nursery production, cotton, broilers and milk. Texas is the number one state in baled hay and wool production. The average farm is 676 acres.
  • Ohio Map:
    Ohio has 80,000 farms, averaging 186 acres each. Ohio produces more eggs and more Swiss cheese than any other state. They are ranked number two in sherbet, three in tomatoes, four in winter wheat and five in sweet corn. Because of the accelerated loss of farmland, Ohio is committed to addressing the issue of farmland preservation head-on. The governor appointed a task force in 1996 and started implementing most of its recommendations in 1997.
  • Georgia Map:
    More peanuts, pecans and poultry are grown in Georgia than in any other state. Georgia also ranks second in acres of cotton and rye and third in peaches and fresh market tomatoes. Poultry broilers continue to rank as Georgia's number one cash receipts commodity, representing 45 percent of the total cash receipts from sales of farm products. The average farm is 265 acres.
  • North Carolina Map:
    Agriculture is North Carolina's number one industry, accounting for nearly one quarter of the state's income, 30 percent of the acreage and 22 percent of the work force. It is one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation, growing over 80 commodities. North Carolina produces more tobacco and sweet potatoes than any other state and ranks second in the production of hogs, turkeys, Christmas trees and trout. There are 57,000 farms and the average farm is 161 acres.
  • Illinois Map:
    Illinois is second only to Iowa in corn and soybean production and fourth in the production of hogs. With over 1,500 kinds of soil types, Illinois also grows lesser known specialty crops such as amaranth, apples, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, buckwheat, canola, grain sorghum, herbs, potatoes, rye, snap beans, sod, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, and winter wheat. The average farm is 355 acres.
  • Pennsylvania Map:
    Pennsylvania is the third-leading producer of concord grapes and the fourth-leading producer in corn for silage, freestone peaches and Niagara grapes in the country. The state also has a huge livestock production consisting of chicken, hogs, cattle, ewes and sheep. The state has a nation-leading farmland preservation program through the purchase of development rights. The state's average farm size is 158 acres.
  • Indiana Map:
    Indiana's main commodities are corn, soybeans, hogs and pigs, poultry and poultry products, and cattle and calves. Indiana has the 4th largest crop area for soybeans and 5th for corn. The state is second only to California in tomatoes for processing and ice cream production. The average farm size is 261 acres, up by 5 percent from 249 acres in 1992.
  • Tennessee Map:
    Tennessee is agriculturally diverse, dominated by farming and forestry, and half of the state's land area in farms. The top five commodities in terms of sales are cattle and calves, poultry and poultry products, soybeans, nursery and green house crops, and dairy products. Tennessee's full time farms decreased slightly by seven percent from 1992 to 1997 but its production market value ($28,358) shot up by an average of 10 percent per farm. The average farm size is 145 acres.
  • Michigan Map:
    Michigan grows more beans (black, cranberry, red kidney and navy), blueberries, tart cherries, cucumbers, flowering hanging baskets, geraniums, Niagara grapes, hosta, and impatiens then any other state. It is the second leading producer of celery and the third leading producer of apples, asparagus, snap beans, carrots, Concord grapes and radishes. However, milk, soybeans, corn, cattle, hogs, annual bedding plants and woody ornamentals provide the highest cash receipts. The average farm is 215 acres.
  • Alabama Map:
    Alabama is very much diversified in farming. When it comes to agricultural products and annual revenues, traditional crops such as cotton, potatoes and peanuts are way below poultry, forestry and horticulture. Poultry and egg sale, the 4th in the nation, is the number one revenue producer, bringing in $2 billion annually. There are more than 1,000 greenhouses, nursery and sod farms spread across more than 12 million square feet of space. The 1997 average farm size is 210 acres.
  • Virginia Map:
    Agriculture is Virginia's top industry and farms cover 34 percent of the state. The state grows traditional crops such as milk, poultry, beef and soybeans; uniquely southern crops like cotton, peanuts and tobacco; and newer commodities such as farm-raised fish and nursery/landscaping products. Virginia ranks in the top 10 or 15 producing states for many commodities. The average farm is 180 acres.
  • Wisconsin Map:
    Wisconsin leads in a number of agricultural crops. The state earns the second largest in dairy products as well as ducks, geese and poultry sold. It has the biggest acreage of corn for silage and the second for oats. Wisconsin gets about half of its total receipts from dairy products. Land in farms, the average farm size, and full time farms decreased between 1992 and 1997 in Wisconsin. The average farm size is 227 acres.
  • New York: About 25 percent of the state's land area produce a variety of crops. Milk is New York's leading agricultural product, followed by nursery and greenhouse crops, vegetables, sweet corn and melons. New York is the second leading producer of apples and maple syrup and the third leading producer of dairy products, grapes, sweet corn, cauliflower and cabbage. The average farm is 228 acres.

  • South Carolina Map:
    Agricultural sales in the states are brought in mainly by poultry and poultry products, tobacco (third in the country), nursery and greenhouse crops, cotton and cattle and calves. It is the second biggest producer, next to California, of Freestone peaches, mainly in Palmetto State. Cotton has the largest percentage of irrigated acreage followed by corn, land in vegetables and orchards, and soybeans. Individuals and families mostly owned the state's farms. The average farm size is 228 acres.
  • California Map:
    The state has been the leader in U.S. agricultural production for more than 50 years. Its 87,500 farms constitute about four percent of the country's total. Eight of the nation's top 10 producing counties are in the state. The Golden State dominates the dairy industry with 19 percent of the national milk receipts, and grows more than half of the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables. California is also the leading producer of all grape varieties and accounted for 92 percent of grape production in 2000. Equally important, it is the country's number one agricultural exporter. Per farm average market value of products sold is $310,718. The average farm size is 374 acres.
  • Mississippi Map:
    Mississippi ranks fourth in cotton and sweet potato production. More than half of its receipts in 1997 were brought in by cotton and cottonseed and poultry and poultry products. The state also produces rice, pecans, soybeans, sorghum, wheat and corn. Tomatoes and watermelons are some of the vegetables grown there. It is number one in aquaculture. In terms of market value of agricultural products sold, the per farm average is $99,859. The average farm size is 323 acres.
  • Louisiana Map:
    Louisiana's top agricultural products in terms of sales are potatoes, peanuts, cotton, poultry and poultry products, soybeans, rye, drybeans and other grains. It also grows sugarcane, strawberries, pecans and Perique tobacco. The state ranks 2nd in crop acreage for rice and 7th in cotton. The average farm size is 331 acres, jumping eight percent from 306 in 1992. Market value of products sold per farm in 1997 was $85,265.
  • Kentucky Map:
    Kentucky's top agriculture commodities are tobacco, cattle, horses, soybeans and corn for grain. Farmland accounts for 54 percent of total acreage in the state. Tied with Tennessee, it ranks fourth in the number of farms behind Texas, Missouri and Iowa. Its broiler industry has expanded with several new processing plants in recent years. Per farm 1997 average of products sold is $37,247. The 1997 average farm size is 162 acres, and increase of seven percent between 1992 and 1997.
  • Arkansas Map:
    Arkansas, a producer as well as an exporter of agricultural products, is the number one in the country in terms of poultry and poultry products sales in 1997, as well as of rice, rye, drybeans and other grains. In 2000 the state ranked 10th in agricultural exports with an estimated amount of $1.4 billion. Its broiler inventory is the biggest in the U.S. The state is also first in acres of rice and fifth largest cotton producer. The 1997 average size of farm is 318 acres.
  • Minnesota Map:
    Corn, hogs, soybeans, dairy and poultry products are the sources of agricultural cash receipts for Minnesota. Animal agriculture is important in the state and as such leads the country in inventory and sale of turkeys. It has the biggest acreage for sugar beets and leads in sugar beet and green peas production. It is the third in terms of hogs and pigs sold and crop area for soybeans. Minnesota is second only to North Dakota in producing spring wheat, oats and canola. The average farm is 354 acres.

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For more information, visit the Farmland Information Center