Smaller farming operations are on the rise in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.
Farming in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties is following many of the same trends locally as across Ontario and Canada, according to just-released statistics from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.
Each county had fewer farmers in 2016 compared to the last census five years earlier in 2011, but the average size of farms has risen.
The figures show the amount of acreage devoted to crop production rose and the number of livestock operations decreased — particularly beef and dairy.
At the national level, Canadian agriculture lost 11,416 census farms during the past five years. Today there are 193,492 farms, down 5.9 per cent from 2011.
Meanwhile, Brant lost seven farms. It has 712 in the latest census, down from 719 five years ago.
The average size of a farm rose, particularly mid-sized operations. In an anomaly, Brant has gained in the number of smallest farms. In 2011, Brant had 36 farms with less than 10 acres. Today, there are 57.
But it has 214 farms with 10 to 69 acres, down from 233 in the same category five years ago.
It has 141 farms with between 70 acres and 129 acres, down from 160.
But the number of farms in the mid-size range has risen over the past five years as some farmers bought out others. The number of operations between 400 acres and 559 acres rose during the past five years to 38 from 30. The number of farms between 560 acres and 759 acres rose to 22 from 20.
There are 20 farms with between 760 acres and 1,119 acres, up from 21.
There are 15 farms with between 1,120 acres and 1,599 acres, up from 10.
There are nine farms with 1,600 acres to 2,240 acres, up from seven.
There is one farm with 2,240 to 2,879 acres, down from two.
There is still one farm from the 2011 census with 2,880 acres to 3,519 acres; and two farms with 3,520 acres or more.
“In Brant County we have a council that is proactive in protecting agriculture and agrifood, and they keep farming foremost in their minds,” said Larry Davis, a director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk
Although the county has endured sustained development pressures for most of the past decade, the statistics show agriculture has been resilient, he said.
“Farmers here are more established and are passing on the farms to other farms. And we have people who are coming into the county and buying up farms. And although we have lost acreage, we have actually increased the amount of productive acreage and farmers are prepared to move into more fragile soils to increase their production.”
Haldimand and Norfolk have seen the total number farms dwindle in the past five years, but in an ongoing consolidation process they have also experienced a growth in the number of mid-sized operations at the expense of smaller ones.
As of the 2016 census, Haldimand has 841 farms, down 17 from 858 in 2011.
The number of operations using fewer than 10 acres dwindled to 44 from 48. The number in the 10-acre to 69-acre range rose to 250 from 224, while the number of farms with 70 acres to 129 acres dropped to 176 from 194.
Farms with between 130 acres and 179 acres also dropped to 61 from 70. The number in the 180-acre to 239-acre range decreased to 57 from 64, and those with 240 acres to 399 acres dropped to 101 from 111.
But the number of mid-sized operations is on the rise. Those with between 400 acres and 559 climbed to 68 in 2016 compared to 59 five years earlier, while those with between 560 acres and 759 acres also rose to 32 from 29.
In the 760-acre to 1,119-acre range the number of farms rose slightly to 25 from 24.
Farms with 1,120 acres to 1,599 acres went to 15 from 16. In the 1,600-acre to 2,239-acre range there was an increase to 11 farms from seven five years earlier.
To the east, Norfolk has a total 1,307 operations, down from 1,322 in 2011.
Smaller field fruit and vegetable produce and greenhouse operations have been on the rise. Those farms with fewer than 10 acres rose to 82 from 69, and those with between 10 acres and 69 acres jumped to 447 from 427.
Meanwhile, the number of farms with 70 acres to 129 acres slid to 294 from 335.
Those with 130 acres to 179 acres lowered slightly to 120 from 128; those with 180 acres to 239 acres rose to 105 from 96 acres.
In the 240-acre to 399-acre range there were 101 operations, down from 116 five years earlier.
The number of 400-acre to 559-acre farms jumped to 68 from 54, and those between 560 acres and 759 acres dropped to 29 from 38. The number of farms in the 760-acre to 1,119-acre range rose to 28 from 25.
The larger 1,120-acre to 1,599-acre farms dropped slightly to 15 from 17 but 1,600-acre to 2,239-acre stands rose to nine from seven.
“Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk are in the middle of the Ontario breadbasket and they’re looking good in this census,” said Davis.
“We have to keep our land in farming as much and as long as possible