More farms in Nova Scotia

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In 2011, Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada to show an increase in the number of farms since 2006. A total of 3,905 farms were reported to the 2011 Census of Agriculture in the province, 2.9% more than in 2006. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces agricultural products intended for sale.

Nationally the number of farms decreased 10.3% between 2006 and 2011. Nova Scotia accounted for 1.9% of Canada’s 205,730 farms in 2011.

Increased area of corn for grain and soybeans

The area of corn for grain in Nova Scotia increased 77.4% since 2006 to 13,701 acres in 2011, while soybean area more than tripled to 8,776 acres.

Gross farm receipts increased

Nova Scotia’s gross farm receipts in 2010, the year prior to the census, increased 9.1% (at 2010 constant prices) to $594.9 million, from 2005. At the national level there was a 3.9% increase in gross farm receipts between 2005 and 2010.

Operators spent an average of 84 cents in expenses (excluding depreciation) for every dollar of receipts in 2010, about three cents less than they spent in 2005.

Poultry and egg farm and dairy farm types accounted for 23.0% and 22.9% total gross farm receipts, respectively. The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) provides a framework for classifying farms based on the commodities they produce and the value of these commodities. The farm types presented in this document are derived based on this system.

Farm operators

Nova Scotia reported 5,225 farm operators in 2011, 2.5% higher than 2006, following the trend in the number of farms. In 2011, 25.9% of Nova Scotia farm operators were women while nationally this percentage was 27.4%.

The average age of a farm operator in Nova Scotia in 2011 was 55.4 years compared with 53.2 years in 2006. Nationally the average age of a farm operator in 2011 was 54.0 years, up from 52.0 years in 2006.

In 2010, 31.5% of all Nova Scotia farm operators worked more than 40 hours a week on average on their farm operations, compared to 40.5% five years earlier. At the national level this percentage was 40.1% in 2010.

In 2010, 47.8% of all Nova Scotia farm operators had an off-farm job or business compared to 48.5% in 2005. At the national level this percentage was 46.9% in 2010.

According to the Census of Agriculture, 27.4% of Nova Scotia operators who were under the age of 35 on census day worked off the farm for more than 40 hours a week on average in 2010, compared to 29.2% of operators aged 35 to 54, and 12.7% of operators over 55 years of age.

Farm area

Total farm area in Nova Scotia increased 2.2% between 2006 and 2011 to 1.0 million acres. Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada to report an increase.

Average area per farm was stable between censuses. Farms in Nova Scotia averaged 261 acres in 2011, compared to 262 acres five years earlier.

Of the total farm area in Nova Scotia in 2011, 27.6% was cropland. Farm operators reported 280,889 acres of cropland in Nova Scotia in 2011, down from 288,146 acres in 2006. Cropland is the total area used in hay, field crops, fruits, field vegetables, sod and nursery.

Proportion of cropland, Nova Scotia, 2006 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Proportion of cropland. The information is grouped by Composition of cropland (appearing as row headers), Percent of cropland* (appearing as column headers).
Composition of cropland Percent of croplandNote *
2011 2006
Field crops 18.8 15.7
Hay 58.9 64.7
Fruits 18.7 16.3
Vegetables 2.4 2.3
Sod and Nursery 1.2 1.1

The majority of cropland (77.7%) in Nova Scotia was reported as field crops and hay (Table 1). The proportion of hay decreased from 64.7% in 2006 to 58.9% in 2011. Field crops (including potatoes) represented 18.8% of cropland in 2011, up from 15.7% in 2006. Increased prices for cash crops coupled with declining beef cattle and pig numbers led to a shift from forages and crops traditionally used for feed to more profitable cash crops.

Total fruit area represented 18.7% of cropland in 2011, up from 16.3% in 2006. The proportion of field vegetables, sod and nursery increased from 3.4% to 3.6%.


In 2011, more than a third of the total dairy herd in Atlantic Canada was reported in Nova Scotia. The total number of dairy cows in the province increased 0.7% since 2006 to 21,935 head in 2011. The number of beef cattle reported for breeding purposes (beef cows and beef heifers) decreased by 28.8% since 2006, totalling 20,986 head in 2011.

Nova Scotia saw the largest percentage decrease in the number of pigs in the country, dropping 80.4% since 2006. The number of pigs in Nova Scotia decreased from 95,131 in 2006 to 18,645 in 2011.

Nova Scotia farm operators reported 425,273 mink breeding stock, accounting for 54.3% of the national total.

Organic farms

According to the census, there were 60 farms with certified organic and/or transitional production in Nova Scotia. This represented 1.5% of all farms in the province. Nationwide, 2.0% of all farms reported certified organic and/or transitional production.

The predominant category of organic products reported in Nova Scotia was fruit, vegetable and greenhouse production and it was reported by 83.3% of the province’s 60 certified organic and/or transitional farms.

Other agricultural highlights in Nova Scotia

  • Alfalfa area decreased 0.4% since 2006 to 37,902 acres in 2011 while other tame hay area decreased 14.0% to 127,521 acres.
  • Blueberry area increased 16.7% since 2006 to 45,073 acres in 2011. Nova Scotia reported the second largest blueberry area in Canada after Quebec in 2011.
  • Apple area decreased 13.8% since 2006 to 5,264 acres in 2011. Nova Scotia reported the fourth largest apple area in the country in 2011.
  • Total grape area increased 41.2% since 2006 to 658 acres in 2011.
  • Total greenhouse area decreased to 2.0 million square feet in 2011, down 39.9% from 2006. Greenhouse floriculture area decreased 50.2% to 1.2 million square feet in 2011.
  • Total field vegetable area increased 2.0%, from 6,633 acres in 2006 to 6,768 acres in 2011. Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada to report an increase in field vegetable area since 2006. The largest vegetable areas in Nova Scotia were carrots, broccoli, and onions.
  • In Nova Scotia, no-till methods were used on 17.2% of the land prepared for seeding in 2011, up from 13.7% in 2006. Conventional tillage decreased to 60.4% of land prepared for seeding, from 65.9% five years earlier. Conservation tillage was used on 22.5% of the land prepared for seeding, compared to 20.3% in 2006.
  • The 2011 Census marked the first time farm operators were asked to report the area from which crop residue was baled for bedding or sale. In 2010, crop residue was baled from 14,763 acres in Nova Scotia.
  • High-speed internet access was reported by 46.0% of the province's farms, slightly above the national average of 44.8%.
  • In Nova Scotia 39.0% of all farms in the province reported paid labour for the year 2010. The census counted 9,695 paid employees, of whom 22.5% worked year-round in a full or part-time capacity while 77.5% were seasonal or temporary employees.

A snapshot in time

The 2011 Census of Agriculture is the most recent measure of the overall state of Canadian agriculture and its wealth of data provides a valuable snapshot of the sector. The census program provides a data continuum stretching back to 1921, while agricultural data has been collected since the first Census of Canada in 1871.

Since the previous Census of Agriculture in 2006, fluctuating commodity prices in certain sectors as well as changing costs of fertilizers, fuel, seed and livestock feed affected the farming community. The residual effects of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and avian influenza were also issues.

However, many changes have since ensued, including favourable commodity prices in some sectors as well as continued evolution in global economic conditions, and some of these factors have benefited the Canadian agricultural sector. At the same time, many farm operators continue to adapt their production and farming practices to become more efficient and to respond to market factors and consumer demands.

These developments, as well as the dynamic and complex nature of the Canadian agricultural industry, are an important reminder that the Census is a snapshot of the agricultural sector that captures its state at a point in time, and does not measure the annual fluctuations between census years.

Statistics Canada would like to thank the farming community of Nova Scotia for participation and assistance in the 2011 Census of Agriculture.

For further information regarding the Census of Agriculture, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre at 613-951-8116 or toll-free 1-800-263-1136;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Rosemary Villani at 613-951-2889, Census of Agriculture, Agriculture Division.


Census farm

An operation is considered a census farm (agricultural operation) if it produces at least one of the following products intended for sale:

  • Crops: Hay, field crops, tree fruits or nuts, berries or grapes, vegetables, seed
  • Livestock: Cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, game animals, other livestock
  • Poultry: Hens, chickens, turkeys, chicks, game birds, other poultry
  • Animal products: Milk or cream, eggs, wool, furs, meat
  • Other agricultural products: Christmas trees, sod, greenhouse, or nursery products, mushrooms, honey or bees, maple syrup and its products

The data for the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories are not included in the national totals because of the different definition of an agricultural operation in the territories and confidentiality constraints. The data for the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories are presented separately.

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Certified organic

An operation or products are referred to as "certified organic" when certification has taken place. Certification refers to the procedure whereby a certification body accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides written assurance that products and production systems conform to specified requirements. Certification may be based on a range of inspection activities including verification of management practices, auditing of quality assurance systems and in/out production balances. (Source: Canada Organic Office Operating Manual)

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Transitional organic

Transitional organic refers to those who were in the process of undertaking the three-year process of having all or part of their operations certified organic at the time of the 2011 Census of Agriculture.

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Gross farm receipts

The Census of Agriculture measures gross farm receipts for the calendar or accounting year prior to the census.

Gross farm receipts (before deducting expenses) in this analysis include:

  • receipts from all agricultural products sold
  • program payments and custom work receipts.

The following are not included in gross farm receipts:

  • sales of forestry products (for example: firewood, pulpwood, logs, fence posts and pilings)
  • sales of capital items (for example: quota, land, machinery)
  • receipts from the sale of any goods purchased only for retail sales.

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2005 to 2010

Some data refer to a reference period other than Census Day. For example, for financial data the reference period is the calendar or accounting (fiscal) year prior to the census.

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Farm type

Farm type is established through a procedure that classifies each census farm according to the predominant type of production. This is done by estimating the potential receipts from the inventories of crops and livestock reported on the questionnaire and determining the product or group of products that make up the majority of the estimated receipts. For example, a census farm with total potential receipts of 60% from hogs, 20% from beef cattle and 20% from wheat, would be classified as a hog and pig farm. The farm types presented in this document are derived based on the 2007 North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS). The chart below shows how these derived farm types relate to NAICS.

Table summary
This table displays the results of Farm Type.
The information is grouped by Census of Agriculture derived categories appearing as row headers, and NAICS five-digit classes appearing as column headers.
Census of Agriculture derived categories NAICS five-digit classes
Dairy Dairy cattle and milk production 
Beef Beef cattle ranching and farming, including feedlots
Hog and pig Hog and pig farming
Poultry and egg Chicken egg production 
Broiler and other meat-type chicken production
Turkey production
Poultry hatcheries
Combination poultry and egg production
All other poultry production 
Sheep and goat Sheep farming
Goat farming
Other animal Apiculture
Horse and other equine production
Fur-bearing animal and rabbit production
Animal combination farming
All other miscellaneous animal production
Oilseed and grain Soybean farming
Oilseed (except soybean) farming
Dry pea and bean farming
Wheat farming
Corn farming
Other grain farming
Vegetable and melon Potato farming
Other vegetable (except potato) and melon farming
Fruit and tree-nut Fruit and tree nut farming
Greenhouse and nursery Mushroom production
Other food crops grown under cover
Nursery and tree production
Floriculture production
Other crop Tobacco farming
Hay farming
Fruit and vegetable combination farming
Maple syrup and products production
All other miscellaneous crop farming

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Farm operator

According to the census, a farm operator is any person responsible for the management decisions made for an agricultural operation as of May 10, 2011.

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