USDA conducts a periodic census of agriculture and produces a County by County Summary Report. Here is a link to the full summary.
Interesting facts include (comparisons are between 2007 and 2012):
- The number of Farms declined by 9%.
- The land in farms declined by 31% from roughly 130,000 acres to 90, 000 acres.
- The average size of the farm declined by 25%.
Here is a summary table of census report information:
[table id=2 /]
Almost half of our agricultural lands are in Pasture, 36% in cropland, and 12% in Woodland. Our top commodity in terms of sale value are fruits, nuts, and berries; followed by Nursery type products, and then in third position “other crops and hay.” Forty-Seven percent (47%) of our farms, 626 farms, are selling less than $2,500 per year, however, almost 30% of our farms are selling in excess of $20,000 per year.
I have seen estimates about the multi-county Sacramento Region that we are locally producing approximately 5% of the food we consume. The rest is being imported from outside the region.
Although it may be available somewhere, I have not been able to easily find the information online where people interested in Placer County agriculture have established a goal regarding how much food we should be producing locally—i.e. a local food production target. Reasons that local food production is beneficial include local jobs, better food quality, food security, strengthening and diversifying the local economy, creating greater community support for local business, retaining community capital in the community, and more.
If we were to consider an increase in local food production, a number of questions would arise:
- How would we reverse the decline in the number of farms and the amount of land being farmed that is reflected in the 2012 AG Census?
- What is the profile of the type of farm and farmers that would increase food production?
- What would we target as the amount of land and number of farmers that would be needed to meet desired food production levels?
- What kind of financial and other infrastructure would be necessary to support the target level of local food production?
- Is there an opportunity to look at new forms of organization as part of a strategy to increase local production – for example, producer cooperatives, consumer food cooperative, equipment sharing, land banking, incubator farms, etc.
There are many excellent reasons to support the small operations that are producing less than $2000 or $3000 a year in product. Among other things, these growers in the aggregate are producing a significant amount of food, and they are probably the mainstay of the local food culture that is essential to building broad community support for increasing local food production.
As is the case in many areas of grassroots economic development, including the local food sector, it is going to take much stronger community support to accomplish a meaningful increase in production. One excellent mechanism for expressing broad community support is to create the investment and lending tools locally that allow our citizens to invest in the expansion of production. It is possible to create Community-based investment vehicles that can in turn make money available for micro lending to expand production ag infrastructure.
I would urge all citizens to get involved, create a free account on our PlacerSustain website, and expand the discussion and collaboration needed address these and other questions.