Lyndsey Marston is the Director of MFT's Stewardship Program, and monitors MFT's farm easements in…
New USDA Data Shows Growth in Local Farming
Farming in Maine continues to grow! In statistics released today by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of farms in Maine grew modestly in the five years from 2007 to 2012, from 8,136 farms to 8,176 farms, while the amount of land in farms during this same period grew by 107,738 acres, or 8%. The value of agricultural products increased during this period from $617 million to $764 million, or 24%.
“This data reinforces what we’ve all been seeing, that farming is one of Maine’s growth sectors.” said John Piotti, president of Maine Farmland Trust.
Piotti was quick to point out that the growth is not uniform across all of agriculture, noting that dairy farms have been hard hit by failed federal policies. Yet overall, farming is strong and growing.
The number of farms in Maine expanded even faster in the previous five years, from 2002 to 2007. During that period, Maine went from 7,194 to 8,136 farms, a 13% increase; however, the amount of land in farms remained fairly stable during that period. In the five years from 2007 and 2012, the situation flipped, with the number of farms growing only modestly, but with the amount of land in farms growing by an impressive 8%.
According to Piotti, when you view the full ten years from 2002 to 2012 together, the number of farms and the amount of land in farms both increased significantly. Piotti also sees good news in another key USDA statistic. From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of farms where the landowners list farming as their primary occupation grew from 43% to 48%.
“More and more Maine people are making a real living from farming,” said Piotti.
These statistics are all part of the 2012 agriculture census. Preliminary census results were released on February 20, 2014. Additional results will be released in the coming weeks. USDA conducts a comprehensive agricultural census every five years.