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Agriculture 2001 Census Farm operator data: initial release Census of Agriculture 95F0355XIE Overview About the Census of Agriculture Highlights Data tables User notes Data quality Questionnaires Reference maps

Data quality

2001 Census of Agriculture — concepts, methodology and data quality

Using the following information will ensure a clear understanding of the basic concepts that define the data provided in this product, and of the underlying census methodology and key aspects of the data quality. It will give you a better understanding of how the data can be effectively used and analysed according to their strengths and limitations. The information may be particularly important when making comparisons with data from other surveys or sources of information, and in drawing conclusions regarding change over time.

Data sources and methodology
Concepts and variables measured
Data accuracy
Comparability of data and related sources
Other quality indicators and assessments

Data sources and methodology

The Census of Agriculture collects and disseminates a wide range of data on the agriculture industry such as number and type of farms, farm operator characteristics, business operating arrangements, land management practices, crop areas, numbers of livestock and poultry, farm capital, operating expenses and receipts, and farm machinery and equipment. These data provide a comprehensive picture of the agriculture industry across Canada every five years at the national, provincial and territorial levels as well as at lower levels of geography.

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General methodology

Target population
The target population is all census farms in Canada. In 2001, a census farm was defined as an agricultural operation that 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); or other agricultural products (Christmas trees, greenhouse or nursery products, mushrooms, sod, honey, maple syrup products). However, the definition of a census farm has changed over time; for a summary of these changes since 1921, please click on Census farm.

The Census of Agriculture also collects and disseminates data pertaining to a related sub-population — farm operators. In 2001, "farm operators" was defined as those persons responsible for the day-to-day management decisions made in the operation of a census farm or agricultural operation. Up to three farm operators could be reported per farm. Prior to the 1991 Census of Agriculture, the farm operator referred to only one person responsible for the day-to-day decisions made in running an agricultural operation.

In 2001, a Census of Agriculture questionnaire was dropped off along with a Census of Population questionnaire when someone in the household was a farm operator. Once completed, the questionnaire was mailed back for editing. If it was determined that a questionnaire had not been received, or if data were missing, a follow-up was conducted by telephone or personal visit. For a more detailed description of the collection process, please click on Data collection.

Data processing
Once the questionnaires were received at head office they were registered, electronically scanned and the data automatically captured from the image using intelligent character recognition (ICR) technology. The captured data were then subjected to many rigorous quality control and processing edits to identify and resolve problems related to inaccurate, missing or inconsistent data. Subject-matter analysts also reviewed the aggregated data and individual values so that any remaining errors due to coverage, misreporting, data capture or other reasons were identified and corrected. For a more thorough explanation, please click on Data processing.

Reference period

The Census of Agriculture has been conducted concurrently with the Census of Population every five years since 1951. The 2001 Census of Agriculture was conducted on May 15, 2001.


Data from the Census of Agriculture are not subject to revision.


Data from the Census of Agriculture are not subject to seasonal adjustments or benchmarking to other data sources.

Concepts and variables measured

For a full description of census concepts, derived variables and geographic levels, please click on Census terms and Geographic definitions.

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Data accuracy

An integral part of each Census of Agriculture is the implementation of new or enhanced methods, procedures and technologies that improve not only the collection, but also the processing, validation and dissemination of the data. New methods, procedures and technologies adopted for the 2001 Census of Agriculture included the Farm Coverage Follow-up Survey, the Coverage Evaluation Survey and the use of intelligent character recognition (ICR) technology. In addition, to help ensure that data from the 2001 Census of Agriculture would be of consistently high quality, improved quality assurance and control procedures were incorporated into each of the collection and data processing stages.

Primarily as a result of adopting these methods, procedures and technologies, the 2001 Census of Agriculture data are of very good quality, with the major commodities generally being of the highest quality. A response rate of 98% and an estimated undercoverage rate of farms of 5.6% also contributed to the overall success of the 2001 Census of Agriculture. Note that, over half of the estimated undercoverage was of farms with sales below $10,000 in 2000. As a result, the undercoverage rate for major commodities is generally below 2%.

With projects as large and complex as the Censuses of Agriculture and Population, the estimates produced from them are inevitably subject to a certain degree of error. Knowing the types of errors that can occur and how they affect specific variables can help users assess the data's usefulness for their particular applications as well as the risks involved in basing conclusions or decisions on them.

Errors can arise at virtually every stage of the census process, from preparing materials, through collecting data, to processing. Moreover, errors may be more predominant in certain areas of the country or vary according to the characteristic being measured. Some errors occur at random, and when individual responses are aggregated for a sufficiently large group they tend to cancel each other out. For errors of this nature, the larger the group, the more accurate the corresponding estimate. For this reason, data users are advised to be cautious when using estimates based on a small number of responses. Some errors, however, might occur more systematically and result in "biased" estimates. Because the bias from such errors is persistent no matter how large the group for which responses are aggregated, and because bias is particularly difficult to measure, systematic errors are a more serious problem for most data users than random errors.

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The most common types of errors are described below.

Coverage errors
In spite of efforts by census representatives to locate and enumerate all farm operations in Canada, each Census of Agriculture misses some farms, primarily because of the difficulty in correctly identifying an agricultural operation when none of its farm operators live on or near it. To reduce undercoverage, census representatives are instructed to ask a member of every household whether someone in the household is a farm operator. In addition, since 1991, an agriculture operator screening question has been on the Census of Population questionnaire to identify farm operators missed when the questionnaires were delivered. If a Census of Population questionnaire was returned with this question marked "yes," the census representative ensured that the household also received a Census of Agriculture questionnaire. A second measure to reduce undercoverage, the Farm Coverage Follow-up Survey (FCFS), was introduced in 2001. The FCFS identified all large farms in each province on Statistics Canada's Farm Register (a regularly updated listing of farms in Canada) that may have been missed by the Census of Agriculture. The operators of these farms were contacted and those that actually had been missed completed their questionnaires over the telephone. These coverage assurance measures resulted in an estimated undercoverage rate for the 2001 Census of Agriculture of 5.6%.

Non-response errors
Some Census of Agriculture and Census of Population questionnaires are only partially completed or not completed at all, usually because of the respondent's absence during the census period or unwillingness to complete the questionnaires. In either case, if the follow-up attempt to obtain the appropriate information is unsuccessful, missing responses are approximated using an automated imputation procedure during data processing. This procedure replaces a missing or inconsistent response, either with a value that is consistent with the other data provided on the questionnaire or with a response obtained from a similar agricultural operation. Data resulting from this procedure generally have little impact on the final figures released.

Response errors
Respondents sometimes provide inaccurate responses on the questionnaire, perhaps as a result of misinterpretation of a question, incorrect placement of a response or approximation of a response. In the Census of Agriculture, implausible or inconsistent responses are confirmed or corrected by contacting the respondents, since they could have a significant impact on totals at either the provincial or the sub-provincial level.

Processing errors
Errors can arise at any stage of data processing, including scanning or character recognition errors during data capture, manual coding and classification errors, and errors due to limitations in the imputation procedure (to correct missing or inconsistent responses, as described in "Non-response errors"). A detailed set of computerized checks at each stage of processing identifies such errors for corrective action. In addition, quality assurance procedures were developed for all processing steps.

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Comparability of data and related sources

The data validation process identified some instances in which data either were not directly comparable to those from previous censuses or were of reduced quality, primarily because of coverage or response errors. After thoroughly investigating each case, notes were developed to identify the variables affected and explain the situation associated with each.

Following each Census of Agriculture, other agricultural surveys use Census of Agriculture data as a basis, or benchmark, for the production of regularly published estimates of the agriculture industry.

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Other quality indicators and assessments

Coverage Evaluation Survey

The purpose of the Coverage Evaluation Survey (CES) is to estimate the coverage of the 2001 Census of Agriculture that was conducted on May 15, 2001.

Coverage is a problem that affects the quality of estimates of all censuses. For the Census of Agriculture, coverage errors occur when farms are missed, incorrectly included or double counted. The CES measures the level of coverage and is one way to assess the quality of the Census of Agriculture estimates.

The CES selects a random sample of smaller farm operations from Statistic Canada's Farm Register for which no Census of Agriculture questionnaire was received. The survey uses a short questionnaire to collect key information about the operating status and the size of the farm. Please note that there are no estimates of undercoverage for Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

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Table 1. Farm undercoverage: breakdown by province


Enumerated farms

Non-enumerated farms (estimated)


Standard error

Newfoundland and Labrador





Prince Edward Island





Nova Scotia





New Brunswick






























British Columbia











Table 2. Farm undercoverage: breakdown by total gross farm receipts

Total gross farm receipts

Enumerated farms

Non-enumerated farms (estimated)


Standard error

0 $10,000





$10,001 $30,000





$30,001 $50,000





$50,001 $100,000





Greater than $100,000





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Date Modified: 2002-11-20 Important Notices