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Fertile ground: Abbotsford agriculture bucks the national trend

Farming in the Abbotsford area is on the increase, with 1,282 farms in operation in 2011. Nationally and provincially, the number of farms has been decreasing since the last census. - Dan Pearce
Farming in the Abbotsford area is on the increase, with 1,282 farms in operation in 2011. Nationally and provincially, the number of farms has been decreasing since the last census.
— image credit: Dan Pearce

Abbotsford has resisted national and provincial trends, seeing an increase in the number of farms over the past five years.

The 2011 Census of Agriculture was released last week, showing Abbotsford had a total of 1,282 farms in 2011, being run by 2,005 operators. In 2006, there were 1,197 local farms.

Canada had 205,730 farms in 2011, a decrease of 10.3 per cent since the last census, while B.C. had 19,759 farms – down 0.4 per cent.

Abbotsford farms generated $640 million in total gross farm receipts in 2010, 22 per cent of the provincial total of $2.9 billion.

Local farms also incurred operating expenses totalling $550 million, giving the region an expense to sales ratio of 86 cents to the dollar. The provincial ratio is 89.

The majority of local farms (661) are in the 10- to 69-acre range.

There are 418 farms categorized as fruit and tree nut type farms, 232 poultry and egg production, and 185 greenhouse and nursery type farms.

Elizabeth Abraham of Statistics Canada explained that a farm type is classified if more than 50 per cent of its receipts come from one particular farm product. So while a large farm may have cattle and poultry as well as blueberries, it is classified as fruit and tree nut if 50 per cent of its sales come from the berries.

A total of 490 farms grow some type of fruit, berries or nuts in Abbotsford, totaling about 10,300 acres. In B.C. there are 4,654 farms growing fruit berries or nuts covering 60,500 acres.

Abbotsford has 374 farms growing blueberries, 28 per cent of the 1,348 farms provincially.

About 58 per cent of all hogs in B.C. are located in Abbotsford.

There are 627 farms that reported having pigs in B.C., with 22 in Abbotsford, totalling 51,530 hogs. The B.C. total is 89,067.

Abbotsford also has 44 per cent of the chickens in the province.

For the first time, farm operators in the age group 55 and over represented the largest share of total operators nation-wide. They accounted for 48.3 per cent, compared to 40.7 in 2006.

The average age of a Canadian farmer in 2011 is 54. B.C.’s average age is 55.7, while the average age of an Abbotsford farmer is 51.9. While farmers appear to be getting older, Abraham doesn’t think it is a sign that young people aren’t getting involved.

“Farm operators tend to live on the operation so they keep farming, whereas someone  employed in the non-agriculture sector may retire outright. For some people, farming itself may be a lifestyle choice for some retirees,” said Abraham.

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