Business

29 percent more farms in San Juan County

Farming in San Juan County is growing — and growing faster than national and state averages, according to a new report from the National Agricultural Statistics service.

The number of farms, farmers, acres farmed, and revenue are all growing in San Juan County. The report, released last month, is a national census conducted every five years. Results from 2007 show 66 more farms (291 total) in the islands than in 2002 — a 29 percent increase, compared to 13 percent for Washington state and 4 percent nationally.

County farm revenues grew 12 percent to a 2007 total of $3.6 million. Fruits and berries ($895,000), and cattle and calves ($845,000) are the two greatest market-value products in the islands, followed by aquaculture ($468,000) and vegetables ($408,000).

Vegetable production is increasing rapidly, with 55 farms now harvesting 48 acres, up from 25 farms and 23 acres just five years ago. The number of orchards is also up (from 42 to 58), although the total orchard acreage has shrunk slightly.

Nationally, farm numbers increased in small farms and very large farms, mirroring changes here. The county has seen a 25 percent increase in farms under 50 acres and a 100 percent increase in our largest farms (from two to four farms over 1,000 acres).

And San Juan County farmers are working 20 percent more farmland — 21,472 acres in 2007.

One way San Juan County differs from national trends is in the age of its farmers. Nationally, new farms are generally smaller with younger operators who also have off the farm income. While the average age for farmers nationally is 57 years and 54 for the state as a whole, the average age for San Juan County farmers is 61.8 years. But for gender, the county again matches national trends. The number of women farmers has increased nationally, which is also true here, with 34 percent of farms primarily operated by women.

For more information about the Ag Census, visit www nass.usda.gov.

— Agricultural Resources Committee of San Juan County

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