by Tricia Dameron
Data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture was released in early February. The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years; this is the third time it was conducted by the USDA. Prior to 1997 it was conducted by the Census Bureau. It's full of fascinating information about agriculture in our state and country. For example:
- Compared to 2002, 10,350,621 more meat chickens were sold in 2007, from 235 fewer meat chicken farms [Table 27]
- The average age of the Oklahoma farmer is 57.6 [Table 1]
- The number of female farm operators in the U.S. increased 30% between 2002 and 2007 [Table 50]
- U.S. sales of organic foods rose to $1.7 billion from $393 million in 2002. That's an increase of 335% [Table 2 and Table 48]
- Oklahoma had 46,224 acres of harvested cropland, of which 8,887 acres (19%) were organic crops [Tables 8 and 48]
But here's the kicker: In Oklahoma direct farm sales rose to $11.5 million from $3.7 million in 2002. That's an increase of 209%. How does this compare with our neighbors? New Mexico: 70%; Texas: 51%; Arkansas: 44%; Missouri: 43%; Colorado: 30%; Kansas: 3%. In fact, Oklahoma had the largest increase in the country! The runner-up was Oregon with an increase of 163%. [Table 2] Venues for direct farm sales include farmers' markets, roadside stands, CSAs, pick-your-own sites, online sales, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and farm-to-school programs. So, what can we do to encourage this growth? Are there any public policy changes that would nurture a thriving local agricultural economy?
Note: Revenue figures are not adjusted for inflation. All figures are rounded up.