Farms in the Triangle: Number, Size, and Market Value


What is this?

Here we provide four measures from the National Agricultural Statistical Service: (1) number of farms (2) land in farms (3) farms by size and (4) market value of agricultural product sold, including direct sales. These measures describe the general state of farming in the Triangle. When examined together, provide information that independent examination of each measure does not allow. We present data for each county in the Triangle and the regional total for 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2007 to make comparisons among counties and analyze trends over time.

Number of Farms: The number of farms in the Triangle.

Land in Farms: The acreage designated as ''land in farms'' consists primarily of agricultural land used for crops, pasture, or grazing. It also includes woodland and wasteland not actually under cultivation or used for pasture or grazing, provided it was part of the farm operator's total operation. Land in farms includes conservation and wetland reserve acres.

Farms by Size: Farms are classified according to the total land area. The land area of a farm includes land owned and operated as well as land rented from others.

Market Value of Agricultural Product Sold Including Direct Sales: This category represents the gross market value before taxes and production expenses of all agricultural products sold or removed from the farm regardless of who received the payment. It is equivalent to total sales and includes the Commodity Credit Corporation loan program but excludes payments received for participation in other federal programs.

What is a farm? A farm is defined by the National Agricultural Statistics Services as “any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.” We tend to think of farms as a place where vegetables, meat, and dairy products are grown or produced. But farms also produce fish, maple syrup, timber, and other products we might not associate with conventional farming. In fact, woodlands comprise nearly 30% of total farmland in the Triangle.

Why does this matter?

This indicator is a general measure of the state of farming in the Triangle. Farming is an important sector of the local economy as Triangle farms employ 6,000 people and provide food to Triangle residents. Without farms, there would not be food and as local agriculture production becomes increasingly important it is necessary to have an inventory of how much the Triangle is currently producing and how much it has the potential to produce in the future. In addition, cost of community services studies in five North Carolina counties have determined that residential properties cost each county more in needed services than they provide in revenue, while farm and forest landowners require less in services (North Carolina Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, 2008).


What does this measure show?

NumberOfFarms.JPG
Figure 1. Number of farms in the Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).

Table 1. Number of farms and percent change in the number of farms in Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).

NumberOfFarmsTable5.JPG

The total number of farms in the Triangle has remained fairly constant since 1992. The total number of farms in each county, however, has fluctuated. The number of farms in Chatham, Durham, and Orange has increased while the number of farms in Johnston, Lee, and Wake has decreased. As of 2007, there were 4,279 farms in the Triangle with Johnston and Chatham counties have more farms than the other counties.

LandInFarms.JPG
Figure 2. Land in farms in the Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).

Table 2. Land in farms and percent change in the number of farms in the Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).
LandInFarmsTable5.JPG
In 2007, the Triangle has slightly more than 500,000 acres of farmland, a loss of nearly 80,000 acres and down 13 % compared the amount of farmland 2 decades ago. Wake County has seen the greatest reduction of farmland (-29 percent) in the past 2 decades while Johnston has experienced the loss of the most amount of farmland; 35,000 acres. Durham is the only county to have an increase in the amount of farmland (+33 percent) but still has the least amount of farmland in the Triangle.

NumberOfFarmsBySizeClass.JPG
Figure 3. Number of farms by size class in Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).

Table 3. Number of farms by size and the percent change in size class for the Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).
NumberOfFarmsSizeTable.JPG


The distribution of farm size in the Triangle is beginning to shift towards smaller farms. Between 1992 and 2007 farms 1 to 9 and 10 to 49 acres show the greatest increase (+38 percent and +35 percent respectively) while farms 180 to 499 and 500 to 999 acres show the greatest percent decrease (-32 percent and -25 percent respectively). Farms 1,000 acres or more are have increased 8% since 1992 but have decreased 20% since 2002.


MarketValueAg.JPG
Figure 4. Market value of Triangle farm production. The values have been adjusted for inflation, please see technical notes for adjustment method. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).

Table
4. Market value of farm production and percent change in the Triangle region. Source: National Agriculture Statistical Service (2010).
* Value intentionally excluded from National Agriculture Statistical Service data. * * Percent change from 1992 - 2002. * * * Uses the 2002 value from Durham.
MarketValueAgTable.JPG
In the Triangle, the total value of agriculture products sold in 2007 was $506 million dollars and $507 million in 1992, a 0.2 % change. This suggests that there has not been any growth in the local farming economy. The market value of agriculture products sold in Lee, Johnston, and Chatham counties are increasing while Wake and Orange counties have experienced a substantial reduction in the market value of agriculture. Durham County, by far the smallest agriculture economy, has experienced a small reduction in market value.

Overall, the Triangle has experienced a reduction in the number of acres of farmlands, the market value of agriculture products sold, and a shift towards smaller farms. The local farm economy is shrinking as population and rates of development in the Triangle increase. As individual counties continue to develop farm plans a regional perspective should be incorporated that attempts to balance the demand for development and the demand for feeding Triangle residents.


Limitations and Further Research

Examining the overall number of farms, size of farmlands, and market value of agriculture in the Triangle region is a broad approach to monitor the state of local farms and food in the Triangle. Though we know the extent of farming in the Triangle region from the data analyzed above, limited data exists that provides an understanding of how much of the total farmland is used for local production only. Other indicators in this report provide a better understanding of the local consumption and infrastructure to support local consumption that but only provides some insight to local production. In the future it would be ideal to know precisely how much farmland in the Triangle region is devoted to local agriculture production.


Authors and Reviewers

Authors:: Kevin Bigsby, Aimee Schmidt and Elina Inkilainen

Reviewers:: Tandy Jones, Director of Special Projects, Triangle Land Conservancy
Nancy Creamer, Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University



Technical Notes

All data presented above is available for download from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agriculture Statistical Service website (http://www.nass.usda.gov/ - downloaded January 2010). This data is available in many formats but we downloaded the complete North Carolina State and County Data Report; a comprehensive series of tables, from which we used data provided in Table 1, County Summary Highlights. We downloaded the North Carolina State and County Report for each agriculture census year; 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2007.

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistical Service compiled the data for 2002 and 2007. United States Census Bureau compiled the state and county data for 1992 and 1997. This leads to a potential source of error when comparing the data from 1992 and 1997 to 2002 and 2007. National Agriculture Statistical Service data (2002, 2007) are adjusted for coverage by correcting for spatial error when sampling, which the Census Bureau did not do in 1992 and 1997.

The market value of agriculture products sold including direct sales were adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars using the base consumer price index from March, 2010; 216.741 and the respective average consumer price indexes for each year; 1992 (140.3), 1997 (160.5), 2002 (179.9), and 2007 (207.342).

North Carolina Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, 2008 Annual Report.
Available at: http://www.ncadfp.org/documents/2008AnnualReport.pdf. Retrieved April 14, 2009.



Here is the spreadsheet containing the data: