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Manitoba's farm population: changes over a lifetime

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Manitoba's farm population continued its steady decline in numbers, dropping by 8.1% since 2001 to 62,930.

In 1931, when the farm population count in Manitoba was compiled for the first time, 256,305 people were living on a farm—36.6% of Manitoba's population. By 2006, the farm population accounted for only 5.5% of the province. In less than one lifetime, Manitoba has moved from 1 in 3 inhabitants living on a farm to 1 in 18. At the same time, Manitoba's total population has grown from 700,139 in 1931 to 1,148,400 in 2006.

Early in the last century, farmers in the province worked on a large number of small farms. In 1931 there were 54,199 farms, with an average of 279 acres per farm. By 2006, the number had decreased to 19,054 farms, with an average of 1,001 acres per farm. However, the total farm area in Manitoba had increased from 15.1 million acres in 1931 to 19.1 million acres in 2006.

Age of Manitoba's farm population

Manitoba has an aging population, and the story is no different for the province's farm population. In 2006 those aged 65 and older made up 9.3% of the province's farm population, up from 5.8% in 1971. Those 65 and over in 2006 made up more of the province's general population, at 14.1%.

Language profile of Manitoba's farm population

Of Manitoba's entire farm population in 2006, 70.1% reported English as their mother tongue, 3.4% reported French, and the remainder (26.5%) reported a mother tongue other than English or French. Of those who reported another language, the largest group was German followed by Ukrainian. The profile for the province's general population in 2006 differed, with 75.2% reporting English as their mother tongue, 4.2% reporting French, and the remaining 20.6% citing another language. Of the other languages spoken by the province's general population, the German language was the largest group, followed by Tagalog and then Ukrainian.

Place of birth of Manitoba's farm population

The 2006 Census of Population counted 3,340 immigrants in Manitoba's farm population or 5.3% of the total provincial farm population. In 1971, immigrants made up 7.2% of the province's farm population. Conversely, immigrants made up 13.3% of the province's general population in 2006, down from 15.3% in 1971.

The British were a significant proportion (30.8%) of Manitoba's immigrant farm population, but they made up only 10.1% of immigrants in the province's general population. About 15% of the province's immigrant farm population was from the Germany, compared to about 6% of immigrants in the province's general population. The third most common place of birth for Manitoba's immigrant farm population was the United States at 10.5%, compared to 4.7% in the province's general population.

Manitoba's farm family finances

The total income of a census family is the sum of all incomes received during the calendar year preceding the census by all members of that family aged 15 years of age and over. Income includes wages and salaries, net farm income, net non-farm self-employment income, government transfer payments, investment income, retirement pensions and other money income.

In 2006, 2,710 Manitoba farm families were involved in an incorporated farm. This is considerably less than the 14,900 Manitoba farm families involved in an unincorporated farm in 2006, down 11.6% from 16,855 families in 2001.

The median total income for Manitoba farm families on unincorporated farms in 2005 was $48,113, compared to $58,814 received by census families in the province's general population.

Education of Manitoba farm operators

In 2006, 7.9% of Manitoba farm operators had university degrees (bachelor level and above) up from 7.1% in 2001. Comparatively, approximately 18% of the province's total labour force fell into this category.

Proportionally more Manitoba farm operators reported apprenticeship or trades certificates or diplomas than the labour force (11.7% compared with 10.3%). This preference may well be the result of a number of factors, including time required away from the farm, and the preference for the more practical approach of college courses on animal care and field-cropping techniques.

What Manitoba's farm operators do

In the 2006 Census, about 40% of Manitoba farm operators reported their main occupation as non-agricultural. This increased from 35.1% since 2001 and suggests that more operators are working off the farm. A higher proportion of female operators in the province reported a non-agricultural occupation than males (58.6% versus 33.4%).

Among the non-agricultural occupations, the top occupation for Manitoba's male operators was transportation equipment operators and related workers, excluding labourers, while for women operators, clerical occupations were predominantly reported.