farm fridays – what’s an acre?

Recently at a young farmer conference, I met a the owner of a small CSA not far from us.  I was so excited to meet another twenty-something female that lived close to us and was involved in agriculture.  We were having a casual conversation about our lives including the CSA operation, which I think is a really neat venture.  During our conversation, I asked her the question I have been programmed to ask farmers without thinking, “How many acres do you farm?”  I don’t exactly remember her response, but I recall it being something like “Oh wow, no.”  I immediately realized that my concept of the acre was WAY off base.  It was a great reminder that although I think I am getting the hang of this farm life thing, that it’s not really natural for me . . . and I still have a lot to learn.

I have to confess, anytime someone asks me “How many acres do you farm?” . . . I have NO clue (and it is a question that gets asked often).  On top of that . . . I obviously don’t even know how big an acre is (creating embarrassing situations such as the above anecdote).  I have been told many times by my husband and father what the measurement is, but it hasn’t really ever stuck in the brain.  The specific reason I wanted to write a post about this subject is so maybe I would FINALLY remember what a darn acre is.



I do know that the acre is a key metric (as business people would say) in the farming world.  Knowing how many acres someone farms, lets you know the relative size of their operation.  For other small business owners, it would possibly be akin to the question “How many employees does your business have?”  I do feel that it is important to note here that bigger is not always better (the old adage applies to so many things in life).

I have turned to Wikipedia for my research on the acre.  Per the world wide web’s greatest resource, an acre is the following:

“The acre is a unit of area used in the imperial and U.S. customary systems. It is equivalent to 43,560 square feet. An acre is about 40% of a hectare – slightly smaller than an American football field.”

Wikipedia was completely unhelpful until the last statement “slightly smaller than a football field.”  Most Americans can picture a football field . . . the hard part is imagining 40, 80, or 160 of them in one big square, which are common farm sizes.  Wikipedia also provided a little trivia, saying  that the acre “may have also been understood as an approximation of the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in one day.”  Just a little tid bit for your next dinner party.

After this “very thorough research,” I desperately hope I will be able to remember this measurement once and for all.

Happy weekend all!





2 thoughts on “farm fridays – what’s an acre?

  1. Because I work in a county assessors office I know a lot about acres. Just ask me the next time we see each other. I will show you how to us our county website so you can see what an acre looks like.

  2. Pingback: farm friday – 5 thoughts for iowa’s newest farm fiancé. | A Whole New World.

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