Farming is always changing and Norfolk County is leading the way.

That’s the conclusion Norfolk’s tourism & economic development department has gleaned from Statistics Canada’s latest agricultural census, which was completed last year.

“The fact we’re No. 1 in technology use is very impressive,” says Clark Hoskin, Norfolk’s manager of tourism and economic development. “Computers, smart phones, GPS – on a per-acre basis, Norfolk is the most extensive user in Canada. Our agriculture has become very modern.”

Norfolk has compiled the findings in a four-coloured brochure titled “Norfolk County – Ontario’s Garden – Leading Farming Region in Canada.” Hoskin presented a run-down of the findings to Norfolk council Tuesday.

The 2016 census found that Norfolk leads the country in a host of areas. This includes sour cherries, asparagus, peppers, ginseng and pumpkins. The county is also Ontario’s top producer of strawberries, rye, cabbage, squash and zucchini.

Abundant production in sweet corn, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, sweet potatoes, lavender and popping corn cement Norfolk’s claim to the title of Canada’s most diversified agricultural economy.

“The next census is 2021,” said Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus. “By then Norfolk will likely be the No. 1 marijuana producer as well.”

Columbus was referring to the fact that cannabis and its derivatives will be legalized for recreational purposes in Canada July 1, 2018. Local marijuana growers who produce legally for the medicinal market are gearing up with new capacity.

In his report, Hoskin noted that Statistics Canada had little to say about tobacco. However, the 2016 census concluded there were 98 tobacco farms in Norfolk last year – up 56 per cent from the 2011 census.

Norfolk is also relatively wealthy as far as agricultural regions are concerned.

With 62 in all, the county leads the way in Ontario with farming operations posting gross annual receipts of $2 million or more. This is up from 40 farms in the 2011 census.

As well, the average farm in Norfolk has machinery and equipment worth $258,500. This compares with $183,500 on farms in the rest of the province.

Farming in Norfolk is also a major driver of employment. At 7,619, Norfolk County had the highest number of farm workers in any census subdivision in Canada in 2016.

Of these, 6,493 were temporary workers, mostly from Mexico and the Caribbean. Again, this led the way for all jurisdictions in Canada.

This article is courtesy of  MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER