What Will The 2022 Ag Census Show For Washington County?
The state of agriculture in Washington County will be revealed by the Ag Census, which counts American farms and ranches every five years.
The census looks at who owns farmlands, operates farms, their size, what’s grown or raised, and farming income and expenses. Small plots of land are also counted, if the value of food raised on them is at least $1,000 a year. The Ag Census takes two years to complete.
About one-third of the land in Washington County is devoted to farming, according to the most recent Ag Census, in 2017 – there were 1,760 farms with 190,447 acres. The largest farm was more than 1,000 acres. About half the farms in the county were between 50 and 179 acres, with an average size of 108 acres. Most of the farms raised cattle for beef, cows for milk, hogs, lambs, and broiler or laying chickens. Around one in three farms grew mostly hay, with corn, soybeans, oats, potatoes and vegetables also grown locally. Wheat and barley are also grown locally, but not so much.
Fifty years ago, there were fewer but larger farms. The Ag Census of 1974 showed 1,358 farms in the county with 208,753 acres. Three farms held more than 1,000 acres. The average farm was 154 acres, which is significantly larger than today’s farm size. In 1974, 9 out of 10 Washington County farms raised cattle for beef or milk, or poultry layers or broilers. Four out of five farms grew hay – about half was alfalfa hay. One out of four farms kept horses. Corn was grown for sale, seed or silage. Minimal amounts of potatoes, sweet potatoes, soybeans were grown. There were orchards, patches of vegetables and berries.
Each year, the Washington County Fair brings a lot of fun to people in the area. It’s also a farm business showcase that pays homage to all the agriculture that still happens in the county with 2,600 agricultural exhibits, barns full of nearly 2,000 animals, and auctions and competitions for the animals that farmers bring to the fair.
The first step in the voluntary Ag Census is for farmers – even part-timer farmers – to sign up by June 30, 2022. Mailing out and collecting survey data starts in November and is scheduled to be done next February. The 2022 Ag Census will be released in 2024.
For America’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity.
The Ag Census originated 200 years ago as part of the official U.S. Census. People were asked how many in their household were engaged in agriculture. The Ag Census was separated from the overall census in 1950, although the Census Bureau still manages the Ag Census for the U.S. Department Agriculture. Today the Ag Census happens every five years – when the year ends in a 2 or a 7.
At a time when people in southwestern Washington County report that not much is grown in that area and that agriculture-related economic development could help, and farming still happens and growth is controlled in Chartiers Township to keep the hometown character of the community, reliable statistics about whether there are more or fewer farms, their size, what’s grown on them, and their income and expenditures can only help people understand how Washington County is changing.
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