Franklin County farms rank 2nd in vegetables

Written by Jim Hook, Public Opinion Online | Mar 30, 2015 11:55 AM
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(Franklin County) -- Most farms in Pennsylvania are small family farms, making with annual sales of less than $150,000, while most dairy operations gross between $150,000 to $350,000, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report.

Families traditionally have run local farms with their emphasis on meat, eggs and dairy.

In recent years however, Franklin County farmers have been cashing in on the consumer trend of buying fresh produce.

Franklin County has become the No. 2 vegetable county in Pennsylvania. The sale of fresh vegetables has more than doubled in the past decade. Farmers sold $7.6 million of vegetables, melons and potatoes in 2012, up from $5.2 million in 2007 and $2.7 million in 2002. Truck crops now rival fruit production ($9.4 million in 2012) in county agriculture.

County farms sold nearly $414 million in all agricultural products in 2012, up from $304 million five years earlier. The county was fourth in the state.

The acreage used by farmers grew by about 1,000 acres to 242,634 acres, or more than half the land area in the county, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

The census has focused on the "family farm" -- a farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage or adoption. About 97 percent of U.S. farms are family farms.

The report also notes:

- 58 percent of all direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms.

- 64 percent of all vegetable sales and 66 percent of all dairy sales come from the 3 percent of farms that are large or very large family farms.

- 18 percent of principal operators on family farms in the U.S. started within the last 10 years.

The state reports can be viewed at County data about "family farms" is not available.

The latest of Census of Agriculture also offers a portrait of Franklin County's agriculture. The county is second only to Lancaster County in milk production and remains one of the state's leading meat producers.

Fifty-six farms were added in the recent five-year period. The number of farms in the county has grown from 1,118 in 2002 to 1,540 in 207 to 1,596 in 2012.

In 2012, Franklin County ranked second in crops and hay, cattle and calves and corn for silage and vegetables. It was third in turkeys, hay and fruits and berries. It was fourth in pigs and hogs. It was fifth in poultry and eggs.

Dairy was still county king with receipts of $177.8 million, about 40 percent of the county's agricultural production. The county had 440 dairy farms, more than the 425 in 2007, but still fewer than the 467 in 2002.

Fewer farmers were in the hog business and fewer raised sheep. The number of poultry farms increased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2012 to 326 farms.

Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF. 

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