Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years by the USDA.  Numbers were released yesterday. Some especially exciting data is that of direct farm sales (which includes farmers’ markets and roadside stands).

In the U.S., the value of direct farm sales between 2002 and 2007 increased 30% (adjusted for inflation; at current dollars it’s 49%).

In Oklahoma—and god I hope I calculated this correctly—between 2002 and 2007 the value of  direct farm sales  increased 167% (adjusted for inflation; at current dollars it’s 208%)! And for the 3,194 farms that have direct sales, the average amount earned from the  sales was $3,611. While certainly not the bread and butter, it was a 61% increase from 2002 (adjusted for inflation; 85% at current dollars). Something is a rumblin’, I can feel it. Do you know where your food comes from?

I wonder, when Oklahoma Food Co-op producers fill out these forms, do they include co-op sales as “direct farm sales”?

More interesting stuff about Oklahoma:

  • 799 farms harvest 7,306 acres of produce for fresh market. 63 farms harvest 10,707 acres of produce for processing.
  • Did you know we have 3 farms growing 15 acres of kiwi fruit here in Oklahoma?
  • We have 518 farms with 1–9 milk cows. We have 6 farms that have 1,000 or more milk cows.
  • We have 2,338 farms with 1–24 pigs or hogs. We have 41 farms that have 5,000 or more pigs or hogs.
  • 114 farms sold 130,380,629 meat chickens in 2007.
  • Female principal farm operators increased 24% between 2002–2007.
  • The average age of the principal operator is 57.6.
  • We have 35,087,269 acres in agricultural production.

I should stop now.

Here’s a readable synthesis of the U.S. numbers. And more about agriculture in Oklahoma here and here.

3 thoughts on “Census of Agriculture

  1. I got in touch with a USDA statistician via the Oklahoma Agriculture Blog and he confirmed my math.

    Here’s what he had to say:

    The increase in direct sales to consumers is one way that many farm operators are able to increase their income. There is a growing trend from consumers to buy agricultural commodities directly from a local farm. One benefit, of course, is that they get a fresher product and while another is that they can see where the commodity was produced.

    As one reviews the county-level data, it becomes evident that the increases are throughout Oklahoma. It is notable that the number of farms dealing in Direct Sales also increased 66%. Why did OK increase more than some other states? One reason is that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has been more proactive in promoting farmer direct sales. Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach has been a strong proponent of farmer sales and under his guidance the farm to school, plasticulture, and fresh market programs have excelled, thus contributing to this comparative increase.

    I hope this helps explain the 209% increase in Direct Sales. Please feel free to respond with any other questions!

    Wilbert C. Hundl Jr.
    Director, Oklahoma Field Office


  2. I have a different take on the dramatic increase in direct farm sales in Oklahoma, and it has little to do with any promotion that the ODOA has done.

    Oklahoma lacks the food culture that a lot of other states have. Look around, we love restaurant chains and Wal-Mart. Our farms are big and commercial. I’m not sure why either, perhaps it’s our relative newness as a state, or some other cultural aspect of our history. What I’m saying is that any increase in direct marketing by farmers in Oklahoma was bound to be dramatic considering where we started.

    Let’s hope the the constant ‘food scares of the week’ and the new administration’s claim to “make our food safer” don’t result in more regulatory hurdles for direct marketers. Considering that Joel Salatin was not named Secretary of Ag, I’m not holding my breath.

  3. I hear ya. From where we started the only place to go was up. It would be fun to plot the numbers on a line graph from when the Census first included the “direct farm sales” category. A future project…

    About food culture: As a new Oklahoman, I have to say, I’m impressed with the food culture here. For me, the food and fellowship (culture) of the food co-op has been instrumental in finding happiness in Oklahoma. I guess, it could be that from where I started the only place to go was up.

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