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Moderate decline in British Columbia farms

Farm size
Farm receipts
Farm type
Computer use
Organic farming
Other highlights of British Columbia agriculture

Moderate decline in British Columbia farms, according to 2001 Census of Agriculture

The number of census farms in British Columbia declined 7.1% between 1996 and 2001, a moderate decrease compared with the rest of Canada.

The 2001 Census of Agriculture counted 20,290 census farms in British Columbia. The decline, the smallest in the country, was lower than the 10.7% decrease at the national level.

However, the number of British Columbia farms has been relatively stable during the past 40 years. Since 1961, the number of farms has actually increased 1.8% in British Columbia. (A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces an agricultural product intended for sale.)

The biggest decline in the number of farms occurred in the Southwest region, where the number of farms decreased 14.1% to 5,733. The Thompson Okanagan region reported 5,679 farms, down 4.3% from 1996.

British Columbia had 8% of Canadas 246,923 farms in 2001, virtually unchanged since 1996.

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Farm size

While the overall number of farms in British Columbia has declined since 1996, their size in terms of area, herd sizes and gross farm receipts has increased. The average British Columbia farm was 315 acres in 2001, up 10.1% from 1996. Since 1981, the average farm size has increased 17.1%.

The total farm area in British Columbia increased 2.3% to 6,392,909 acres since 1996. Cropland rose 9.2% to 1,525,986 acres. British Columbias farmland made up 4% of the national total in 2001, unchanged from 1996.

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Farm receipts

British Columbias total gross farm receipts were almost $2.3 billion in 2000, while operating expenses reached $2.1 billion. While factors such as the commodities they produced, the prices they received and the weather they had to deal with made each farmers situation different, in general, expenses rose slightly faster than revenues. Five years earlier, at 1995 prices, receipts were $1.8 billion and expenses were $1.7 billion. (The 2001 Census collected information on gross receipts and expenses for 2000.)

Over the five-year period, prices farmers received for their products increased by 7.8%, while prices they paid for expenses such as fertilizer and fuel increased 9.8%. Farmers, squeezed by relative increasing costs, had to increase farm productivity to keep the ratio of receipts-to-expenses favourable.

In 2000, in British Columbia, the ratio of operating expenses to gross farm receipts was 0.91:1, in other words, 91 cents of operating expenses were spent for every dollar received in gross farm receipts. This compares to 1995, when the expense to gross receipts ratio was 0.90:1. (Expenses collected on the census do not include depreciation.)

The number of farms in all sales categories declined. Farms with gross receipts of $250,000 or more decreased 3.4% from 1,933 farms in 1995 to 1,868 farms in 2000. While, these farms accounted for only 9% of all farms in British Columbia, they had over 78% of the total gross receipts reported for the province for the year 2000.

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Farm type

Cattle farms are the most common types of farms in British Columbia accounting for close to one-quarter (24.8%) of all farms, followed by fruit farms with 14.5%, horse and pony farms with 12.6%, and hay and fodder crop farms with 9.9%. Since 1996, the share of cattle farms increased while the share of fruit farms declined within the province.

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Computer use

The proportion of farms in British Columbia using a computer as a management tool increased between 1996 and 2001. The census found that 8,146 farms used computers, more than 40% of the total, up from 24% in 1996. The national average was 39.4%.

Over 73% of British Columbia farms reporting a computer used it for word processing, over 72% reported using it for bookkeeping, while 70% of farms reported using the Internet.

Farms with higher sales were more likely to use a computer. In 2001, 72% of farms with sales of $250,000 or greater reported using a computer, compared with only 34% of farms with sales under $25,000.

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Organic farming

For the first time, farmers were able to report on their census forms that they produced certified organic commodities. (In Canada, a farmer who wishes to become "certified organic" must apply to a recognized certification agency.)

According to the census, there were 319 organic farms in British Columbia on Census Day. These made up 14% of organic farms in Canada.

The predominant certified organic products grown in British Columbia were fruit, vegetable, or greenhouse products. These products were reported on 84% of the provinces organic farms.

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Other highlights of British Columbia agriculture:

  • Although 42% of British Columbia farms are located in the Southwest and the Islands, these areas account for only 6% of the total farm area in the province. A third of agricultural land is located in the Peace River Region, 23% in the Thompson Okanagan, and just under 20% in the Cariboo.
  • The Lower Mainland - Southwest region remains the most important agricultural area in British Columbia. Occupying only 4% of the total agricultural land in the province, more than one-quarter of the provincial farms are found here and this region accounts for over 62% of gross farm sales.
  • British Columbia has the highest number of operations (3,988) reporting tree fruits, berries and nuts in Canada, but ranks third in area (48,330 acres) devoted to growing these commodities. Ontario and Quebec have more land in this category. Over one-half of the fruit acreage in British Columbia is located in the Thompson Okanagan region.
  • More than one-half of Canadas raspberry area is in British Columbia. A total of 693 farms reported growing raspberries on 5,500 acres. Grape area more than doubled and apple area, which accounts for nearly one-quarter of Canadas total, declined between 1996 and 2001.
  • There were 1,292 farms reporting greenhouses in British Columbia. Greenhouse area grew to nearly 50 million square feet from over 31 million square feet in 1996. More than three-quarters of the greenhouse area are located in the Southwest region. British Columbia ranks second after Ontario in the number of greenhouse operations and total greenhouse area.
  • The number of meat chickens (broilers, roasters and Cornish hens) increased 45% to 14 million between 1996 and 2001. The number of laying hens and pullets increased 18% to 4.8 million since 1996. Over 80% of these birds are located in the Lower Mainland - Southwest region of British Columbia.
  • Some non-traditional operations have grown substantially. In 2001, nearly 36% of the Canadian ginseng crop, or 2,527 acres, was grown in British Columbia, mostly in Thompson Okanagan. This area was up 50% from 1996. The number of llamas and alpacas raised in British Columbia more than doubled to 5,428, the second largest provincial total after Alberta.

Statistics Canada thanks the British Columbia farming community for participating in the 2001 Census of Agriculture.

A full statistical portrait of Canadian agriculture is available in The Daily, Statistics Canadas official release bulletin, by accessing the Agencys Website (/).

This press release contains data for the province, census agricultural region (CAR), census division (CD) levels only. The data for the lowest level of geography, census consolidated subdivision (CCS), will be available on June 12, 2002.

For more information on this release, contact Gaye Ward (613 951-3172), Census of Agriculture, or Media Relations (613 951-4636).

2001 2001 Census of Agriculture
 questionnaire 1996 2001 Census of Agriculture
About the Census of Agricuture All releases 2001 2001 Census of Agriculture

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