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Is it worth getting bigger?

With family living expenses increasing, many farms strive to get larger, reports North Dakota State University's Cole Gustafson. But he suggests farm families really need to evaluate if this strategy will produce enough extra income.

He cites data collected from the North Dakota Farm Business Management Education Records that indicates large farms are not that much more profitable than a mid-size or small farm. From the research, the average net income for large farms of 1,600 acres was $51,374. Income from the top one-third of the most profitable small farms (those with less than 1,600 acres) was $49,834.

Of the minimal difference in income, Gustafson says, "Getting bigger may not help." Instead he suggests farms may want to look to specialize and add value by raising specialty crops or livestock, natural products, agritourism, etc.

Regarding money and happiness, Gustafson also says research indicates after our basic needs of food and shelter are met, people with more income are not happier. Instead, time becomes the commodity most people value. For instance having the time for a family vacation usually produces more lasting happiness than buying a new car.