Results of the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture are in. According to the numbers USDA released April 11, the biggest change in Georgia agriculture since 2012 has been a shift in the size of farms. Census results show Georgia has 42,439 farms. Of these, 3,540 farms had acreage changes between 2017 and the last census of 2012.
Georgia’s number of small (10-179 acres) farms decreased. The number of micro farms (1 to 9 acres) showed a significant increase while mid-size (180-999 acres) and large farms (1,000 acres or more) showed a slight increase.
The census, conducted every five years by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, indicates more Georgians were farming in 2017 than in 2012 when the last ag census was taken. The number of Georgia farms increased from 42,257 in 2012 to 42,439 in 2017. That’s an increase of 182 farms. Acres of land being farmed in Georgia increased from 9.6 million acres in 2012 to 9.95 million acres in 2017. That’s an acreage increase of 3.5% (up 332,894 acres). Georgia’s average farm size increased from 228 acres in 2012 to 235 acres in 2017 up 3.1%.
But, put in a historical perspective, the latest census shows Georgia has lost 6,904 farms since the 1997 ag census and 1.35 million acres of land being farmed. Georgia had 49,343 farms in 1997 and 11.26 million acres of land being farmed.
To put the census numbers in context, you also need to know the USDA defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of ag products were produced and sold or normally would have been sold in a census year.
The national census shows the U.S. had 3.4 million producers in 2017 and 2 million farms. There were 3.18 million producers nationwide in 2012 and 2.1 million farms.
Georgia 2017 census highlights:
• 68,087 – producers associated with Georgia’s farms, up from 61,053. The ‘17 census let farms report up to 5 producers/farm.
• $9.6 billion – market value of products Georgia farms sold, up from $9.3 billion in 2012 & $5.2 billion in 1997.
• #1 – Georgia’s U.S. ranking for poultry & egg market value. Georgia produced 11% of U.S. poultry products.
• 66% male, 34% female – gender of Georgia’s farmers.
• 57.9 years - average age of Georgia farmers, up from 57.7
• 5,721 – number of Georgia’s farmers 35 or younger.
• #2 – Georgia’s U.S. ranking for producers farming 10 years or less
• 122 - Georgia farms that are USDA Certified Organic.
Shift in farm size
The 2017 census shows Georgia farms 1 to 9 acres in size grew in number from 3,003 in 2012 to 4,520 in 2017. That’s an increase of 1,490 farms in this category.
Farms between 10 to 49 acres dropped by 390 farms from 13,830 in 2012 to 13,440 in 2017.
The largest decrease in farm size occurred in the 50 to 179-acre range with this category plunging from 14,670 farms in 2012 to 13,480 farms in 2017 for a total decrease of 1,190 farms.
Farms between 180 to 499 acres increased by 180 from 6,330 in 2012 to 6,510 in 2017, but farms between 500 to 999 acres decreased by 50 from 2,280 in 2012 to 2,230 in 2017.
Farms 1,000 acres or more increased by 150 farms from 2,110 in 2012 to 2,260 in 2017.
Farmers by gender
In Georgia, 66% of 68,087 farmers are male (44,839) and 34% are female (23,248). The number of female farmers in Georgia increased 30.8% in the past five years. Nationwide, 64% of all farmers are male while 36% are female.
The increase in Georgia female farmers is because the census questionnaire changed the way demographic questions were asked Jaqueline Moore, deputy director of the Southern Region NASS office said. Farms were allowed to report multiple producers and most of the newly reported producers were female.
If you’re wondering how the ratio plays out in Georgia’s young producers (age 35 years or less), it’s almost identical to the overall population. Among Georgia farmers age 35 years & younger 65% are male (3,717) and 35% (2,004) are female.
The average age of Georgia’s female farmers is 57.1 years and the average age of male farmers is 58.3 years.
Farmers by age
The average age of Georgia farmers saw the slightest of increases from 2012 to 2017 as it went from 57.7 years to 57.9 years. The average age of the U.S. farmer is 57.5 years.
Georgia had 5,721 farmers under the age of 35 in 2017. The average age of these farmers was 29.5 years. This age group made up 8.4% of Georgia’s farm population. This age group comprises 9.4% of the U.S. farm population.
This age category is engaged predominately in beef/hay farming, poultry farming or fruit/nut farming and 84% of the young farmers have been farming less than 10 years.
New farmers are middle aged
Georgia ranked second in the U.S. behind Alaska for having the largest percentage (33%) of producers who are considered new and beginning farmers. One might assume this refers to young farmers, but the 2017 census shows this isn’t the case. The USDA uses this term to refer to producers who have farmed 10 years or less.
Georgia has 22,743 farmers in this category. Their average age is 48.6 years. They farm on 14,786 farms in Georgia and the average size of their farms is 161 acres.
This category of farmers produced a total of $2.3 billion in sales in 2017 of which $746 million came from crops and $1.6 billion came from livestock. The average total value of commodities that these farms produce is $155,690.
It’s worth noting that 2,199 of these farmers had military service.
Farmers by ethnicity
While 64,574 of Georgia’s farmers are Caucasian, the ethnic makeup of Georgia’s producers is more diverse than expected. There are 2,870 African American producers; 922 Hispanic producers; 524 American Indian producers; 494 Asian producers and 43 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander producers.
The number of farms associated with each ethnicity is as follows: White- 40,284; African American: 2,055; Hispanic – 804; American Indian: 446; Asian: 326 and Native Hawaiian: 38.
Georgia’s number of USDA Certified Organic farms increased by 35.6% from 90 in 2012 to 122 in 2017.
These farms sold a total of $29.9 million in products in 2017 up from $5.7 million in 2012. In 2017, 53 of the farms reported sales up to $4,999 on the low end and 44 farms reported sales of $50,000 or more. Henry, Appling, Troup, Barrow, Tattnall and Union counties had the largest numbers of certified organic farms.
There are 273 producers associated with the 122 organic farms. Of these, 170 are male and 103 are female. The average age of Georgia’s organic farmer is 52 years. Thirty-four of the producers have military service and 169 producers have been farming 10 years or less.
Market value of commodities
The market value of ag products sold by Georgia farms in 2017 was $9.6 billion, up from $9.3 billion in 2012 and $5.2 billion in 1997. The state ranking of Georgia commodities ranked by sales value are as follows:
#1 – Poultry & Eggs
Georgia’s 5,271 poultry & egg farms also ranked #1 in U.S. for sales of $5.4 billion, which was 57.3% of Georgia’s total ag sales.
#2 – Hay & Peanuts
The census combines these crops. A total of 10,691 Georgia farms reported sales of $847 million for these crops. 2,838 farms grew peanuts.
#3 – Cotton/Cottonseed
Georgia’s 2,550 cotton farms had sales totaling $776 million.
#4 – Vegetables, Melons, Potatoes
The 1,899 Georgia farms growing these crops & sweet potatoes had sales totaling $566 million.
#5 – Fruits, Pecans & Berries
The 3,865 Georgia farms growing these crops had a sales value of $422 million.
#6 – Cattle
In 2017, 13,234 Georgia farms sold cattle/calves with a sales value of $362 million. An additional 4,153 farms had cattle but didn’t sell them.
#7 – Dairy
Milk from Georgia’s 243 dairy farms had a sales value of $331 million.
#8 – Greenhouse & Sod
The 933 Georgia farms growing trees, shrubs, perennial plants, flowers or sod had $322 million in sales.
#9 – Grains & Soybeans
The 3,013 Georgia farms growing grains (corn, wheat. oats, sorghum, barley) soybeans, dry beans & dry peas produced $283 million in sales.
#10 – Pigs
Georgia’s 811 farms raising pigs had $53 million in sales.
The first Census of Agriculture was conducted in 1840. Data is available for national, state and county levels. For Georgia 2017 Census of Agriculture data, visit www.nass.usda.gov. For U.S. census data visit www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.