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How big (and how profitable) is the average farm – and is this set to change?

David Missen delves into the data.

Superficially the question of size is relatively simple. Looking at the June census figures for 2018, there are 106,000 agricultural holdings in England covering just over 9m Ha, so the average farm is 86.4 Ha or about 213 acres. Taken in conjunction with the annual figure for “Total income from farming” (TIFF), of £3.35Bn, this gives an average income for 2018 of £31,600 per holding or £148/acre. £2.1Bn of TIFF comes from direct payments, so without subsidy the income drops to about £55/acre.

Scratch below the surface, however, and interesting things start to appear. Although there are 106,000 holdings, 63,000 of them are under 50 Ha. Obviously this will include a number of intensive livestock units which distort the simple acreage calculation, but nonetheless the average size of these smaller units is only 15 Ha. If these smaller farms are excluded from the calculation we are left with 43,000 units of 50 Ha or more and an average size of 189 Ha or about 470 acres. Looking even further up the scale, there are only 11,300 units of more than 200 Ha but these cover over half the farmed area and average out at over 430 Ha or about 1,000 acres.