General History

Farmers harvesting in the 1900'sIn 1997, there are 76,000 farms utilizing 28.0 million acres or about 80 percent of the total land area in the state. Approximately 90 percent of Illinois agricultural land could be used to grow crops.

About one million Illinois workers are employed in the food and fiber system, ranking it as one of the top states in dependency on agriculture. In addition to farming, Illinois is a leading state in agricultural related industries, such as soybean processing, meat packing, dairy manufacturing, feed milling, vegetable processing, machinery manufacturing, foreign exports, and service industries.

The Farmer

The 1992 Census of Agriculture showed the average Illinois farm operator was 51.7 years of age. The average value of land and buildings on each farm was $539,000. Machinery and equipment were valued at $71,000. The average farm sold products valued at $94,535 and had production expenses of $65,573. About 60 percent of the farm operators considered farming to be their principal occupation.


Illinois farm families are industrious and their work shows it. On a peak spring day, they may plant nearly 800,000 acres of corn or 500,000 acres of soybeans. With fewer than 4 percent of the farms in the U.S., they produce about 17 percent of the soybeans, 16 percent of the corn, 8 percent of the pigs, and account for 6 percent of the agricultural exports.

Illinois Farms and Farmland

YearNumber of Farms (Thousands)Land in Farms (1,000 Acres)Average Size of Farm (Acres)

State Ranking

Illinois often ranks first in soybean production, second in corn production, and fourth in hog production. Generally it is one of the top five states in cash income, crop cash receipts, and total value of farm real estate. It is normally one of the top ten states in number of farms, production of winter wheat, oats, grain sorghum and sweet corn.