The official count of the population of the United States is the census held every 10 years—the next one will be in 2010. Certain industries, like Agriculture, get their own census every 5 years. Last week (February 4th, 2009) the National Agricultural Statistics Service (housed in the US Dept of Agriculture) released the results of the 2007 Census of Agriculture—a.k.a. the Ag Census. I was most interested in the fact that Organic Agriculture was specifically included in the Ag Census for the first time.
This includes both “farms with organic acreage” (20,437) as well as farms with “organic product sales” (18,437). Since I was talking to the USDA rep at a conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (2,000 attendees and counting), he also provided a Pennsylvania summary. Pennsylvania (my home state) has 680 farms selling organic product, for $58.3 million in sales volume. There are an additional 95 farms in Pennsylvania counted as “having organic acreage” but not necessarily selling organic product.
In summary, Pennsylvania is about 3.5% of organic farms and organic sales volume in the United States. It is also the 5th largest state in terms of organic (agricultural) sales. A couple of other interesting tidbits grabbed my attention. Pennsylvania had 45,181 acres in organic production with another 14,346 acres being converted to organic production. The only states ahead of Pennsylvania are California, Washington, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Somewhat surprisingly, New York is in 6th place, behind Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania also has 379 farms marketing via a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement.
This (Agricultural) Census is interesting stuff, but who uses it? The answer, literally, is almost everyone. When I was doing market research in my prior life, my office considered Census data the gold standard. For the information it collected, there was simply no more authoritative source. As the Ag Census website says: It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the United States. http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/ (emphasis added from the About the Census section.) The country’s leading authority for agricultural production statistics now includes organics. Organics is now officially at the agricultural table.