NC farm numbers gradually decrease between 2007-2012, however some counties grow in farms

It’s generally known that the number of farms in the US is decreasing overall. But where does this information come from?

The US Census of Agriculture is used to determine the trends and characteristics of agriculture nationally. The census counts and surveys farm operations on a county level. In the map above are the data for North Carolina’s farm operations. The counties are labeled with the 2012 number of farms and the color represents the level of change in farms per county.

Blue-scale colors represent increases in farms and green and brown-scale colors represent decreases, with brown designating the largest decreases.

It seems as though many of the increases in farms are near metropolitan areas (as with Lincoln, Chatham, and Orange counties). The largest decreases seem to be in the more remote, rural counties.

However, the are some exceptions. These numbers don’t necessarily reflect the health of the agricultural economy across the state. There could be farms that were merged into larger operations resulting in a net decrease in farms. It’s possible that working farmland was still retained but the operation merged or was bought by another operation.

On the other hand, the increases in farms that we see on the map may largely represent the growth of the small-scale farms that seem to be on the rise in counties near metropolitan areas.

This map helps us understand that the change in the number of farms happening in the US is uneven and may depend on many geographically-specific factors.

We can see that several NC counties have experienced a decrease of over 100 farms in the five years between 2007 and 2012. On the other hand, many counties grew by 50 or more farms. What may have caused these significant changes?

Top 10 counties with greatest increase in farm operations:

Harnett: +70
Chatham: +49
Allegheny: +48
Bertie: +46
Orange: +41
Rockingham: +39
Martin: +37
Rowan: +28
Watauga: +22
Clay: +17

Top 10 counties with greatest decrease in farm operations:

Duplin: -219
Wayne: -160
Cleveland: -152
Sampson: -136
Wilkes: -123
Cumberland: -111
Haywood: -110
Moore: – 86
Granville: -84
Madison: -82

Counties with over 1,000 farm operations in 2012:

Randolph: 1,486
Surry: 1,256
Iredell: 1,203
Johnston: 1,175
Ashe: 1,140
Chatham: 1,138
Sampson: 1,067
Davidson: 1,062
Buncombe: 1,062
Union: 1,060
Cleveland: 1,036
Rowan: 1,011

Counties with less than 100 farm operations in 2012:

Swain: 94
Currituck: 82
Pamlico: 80
Tyrrell: 78
Camden: 60
New Hanover: 50
Dare: 9

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