Where Have All the Farmers Gone?

The 2012 Census of Agriculture reported the existence of 9,071 farms in the Garden State. Since the previous 2007 Census had reported 10,327 farms, some in the ag community were quick to express concern over what the decline in NJ farm numbers meant, if anything.

Farmer-SHitchner-2006However, in thinking about farm numbers and the farm economy, accepting the 2007 USDA Census data at face value might be a mistake.

 
In 2007, USDA policy leadership and Congressional policy advocates wanted to portray the USA as a nation with rising numbers of small farms, urban and urban fringe farms, and farms operated by non-traditional operators. The Farm Bill policy campaign was called, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” and its laudable goal was to connect people with local nutritious food and farmers who raise it. In an ever-consolidating, large-farm global marketplace, officials wanted to elevate economically viable local food system career opportunities and community development for young people. What better method than by manipulating Census reporting to reveal a rising number of small farm opportunities?
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