(TRENTON, NJ) ― New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today said the detailed 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture released on May 2 shows consumers are demanding local agricultural products and are looking for on-farm experiences.
The census, last conducted in 2007, says farmer direct sales to consumers through roadside stands, farmers markets, pick your own and Community Supported Agriculture increased from $30.1 million in 2007 to $33.3 million in 2012. New Jersey ranks 12th in the nation in direct sales and 20 percent of New Jersey farms report some type of direct sales activity. Twelve NJ counties are in the top 8 percent in the nation in direct sales and Salem County is in the top .5 percent, ranking 15th in the nation out of 3,077 U.S. counties, with $6.5 million in direct sales to consumers.
The number of farms in New Jersey offering agritourism activities increased from 322 in 2007 to 347 in 2012. New Jersey ranks ninth in the nation in agritourism sales and nine counties in the state rank in the top 10 percent in the nation in agritourism sales. Burlington County is in the top two percent, ranking 51st in the nation.
“The census of agriculture shows that New Jersey growers are uniquely positioned to be able to service both regional and local markets, bringing their produce directly to the consumers who clamor for it,” said Secretary Fisher. “Our farmers and consumers benefit greatly from having productive farms close to the marketplace.”
The census showed that New Jersey farmers deliver a high value product. The state ranks fourth in the nation in the value of market products sold per acre at $1,408, which is more than three times the national average.
Some census data were released in February and showed the average New Jersey farm is larger and more productive than it was in 2007. The average size of a New Jersey farm increased from 71 to 79 acres from 2007 to 2012. The market value of products sold on those farms went up from $95,564 to $111,030 per farm. In total, the market value of products sold on all New Jersey farms increased from $986.9 million to $1.01 billion.
Between 2007 and 2012 there was a decrease in the number of the state’s smallest farms, those between one and nine acres. That number dropped 24 percent from 2,950 to 2,237. However, the number of farms between 50 and 179 acres increased 7 percent from 1,675 to 1,790 during that time period.
The census also showed farmers in the U.S. are getting older. The average age of a New Jersey farmer went up from 57 in 2007 to 59 in 2012.
The full, detailed census also broke down data by county. Salem County was the only New Jersey county where the number of farms increased since the 2007 census and Bergen, Burlington, Salem and Somerset counties were the only counties where farm acreage increased.
Census data provide valuable insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices. Some of the key findings include:
• The number of farms with renewable energy producing systems in NJ more than doubled from 204 farms to 591 farms (most of those have solar panels). Six percent of NJ farms use solar panels compared to less than 2 percent for US farms.
• In the greenhouse industry, square footage for nursery stock crops more than doubled from 7.8 million square feet to 16 million. And greenhouse tomatoes went from 162,000 square feet to 275,000.
• With a burgeoning wine industry, the number of farms growing grapes increased from 192 to 197 and acres increased from 1,043 to 1,082.
• New Jersey has the highest percentage of farms with horses east of the Rockies.
• Bee colonies increased from 266 to 368; colonies increased from 10,926 to 13,298. Pounds of honey increased from 474,013 to 579,738. Honey sales in 2012 were $1.1 million.
• There were 94 aquaculture operations with $12.4 million in sales in 2012.
• More farmers were using the internet in 2012, increasing from 6,495 to 6,953 in 2012.
• There is a lot of interest in conservation practices — 549 farms have 40,355 acres under conservation easement, 1,027 farms are using no-till practices on 88,180 acres of cropland, and 471 farms have 1,891 cover crop acres.
Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. To be counted in the federal census, a farm must have sold or had the potential to sell at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products.
The census information will be used for planning, policy, and research and business decisions by all those who serve the millions of farmers and ranchers in America, as well as by the producers themselves.
To view the complete census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.