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DataVille: A Look at Farming in the FarmVille Era

MONDAY, JUL 11, 2011

Virtual game company Zynga—the creator of popular social games such as CityVille and FarmVille—is planning to enter StockMarketVIlle shortly with an initial public offering of $1 billion, and the company could soon be valued at over $20 billion.  Zynga is perhaps best known for FarmVille—the game where players grow virtual crops and tend to virtual animals.

With the fake farm sector booming, Social Explorer examined data on the real farm industry in the US.  The Census Bureau combines certain occupations, so for this research, Social Explorer looked at the farming, fishing and forestry category, which is mostly made up of farmers and gives a good indication of how that group is performing.  While the overall employed population increased from 97,639,355 to 140,602,470 between 1980 and 2009, the farming/fishing/forestry sector shrunk from 2,811,258 to 988,070 (a decline of 64.9 percent) due to numerous factors, such as large-scale farming and automation.

chart farming fishing forestry

farming fishing forestry table

Data from decennial census and 2009 American Community Survey for "farming, fishing and forestry" occupation category.

Meanwhile, FarmVille, which launched in June 2009, now has almost 38 million monthly active users—nearly six times the number of farms reported in the 1920 census (a high year for the sector) and over 17 times the number of farms in 2007 (according to the US Census of Agriculture).

Perhaps this signifies a shift to America’s agricultural heritage.  Census data from 1820 shows that 83.1 percent of working adults were employed in agriculture (with the rest in commerce and manufacturing).  Today’s Farmville participation rate on Facebook rivals the level of actual agricultural employees reported in the 1840 census (21.3 percent).

When you're done watering your virtual crops and frolicking with your virtual sheep, check out Social Explorer's maps and reports for more data adventures.

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