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New Brunswick's farm population: changes over a lifetime

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New Brunswick's farm population continued its steady decline in numbers, dropping by 6.2% since 2001 to 7,650.

In 1931, when the farm population count in New Brunswick was compiled for the first time, 180,214 people were living on a farm—44.1% of New Brunswick's population. By 2006, the farm population accounted for only 1.0% of the province. In less than one lifetime New Brunswick has moved from 1 in 2 inhabitants living on a farm to 1 in 95. At the same time, New Brunswick's total population has grown from 408,219 in 1931 to 730,000 in 2006.

Early in the last century, farmers in the province worked on a large number of small farms. In 1931 there were 34,025 farms, with an average of 122 acres per farm. By 2006, the number had decreased to 2,776 farms, with an average of 352 acres per farm. However, the total farm area in New Brunswick had gone down, from 4.2 million acres in 1931 to 976,629 acres in 2006.

Age of New Brunswick's farm population

New Brunswick 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 12.5% of the province's farm population, up from 8.8% in 1971. Those 65 and over in 2006 made up slightly more of the province's general population, at 14.7%.

Language profile of New Brunswick's farm population

Of New Brunswick's entire farm population in 2006, 75.3% reported English as their mother tongue, 21.9% reported French, and the remainder (2.8%) reported a mother tongue other than English or French. Of those who reported another language, the largest group was German. The profile for the province's general population in 2006 differed, with 65.1% reporting English as their mother tongue, 33.0% reporting French, and the remaining 1.9% citing another language. Of the other languages spoken by the province's general population, the Mi'kmaq language was the largest group, followed by the Chinese languages and then German.

Place of birth of New Brunswick's farm population

The 2006 Census of Population counted 250 immigrants in New Brunswick's farm population or 3.3% of the total provincial farm population. In 1971, immigrants made up 3.7% of the province's farm population. Conversely, immigrants made up 3.7% of the province's general population in 2006, which is unchanged from 3.7% in 1971.

The Germans were a significant proportion (37.4%) of New Brunswick's immigrant farm population, but they made up only 6.7% of immigrants in the province's general population. About 26% of the province's immigrant farm population was from the United States, compared to about 33% of immigrants in New Brunswick's general population. The third most common place of birth for New Brunswick's immigrant farm population was the Netherlands at 18.2%, compared to 3.8% in the province's general population.

New Brunswick'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, 635 New Brunswick farm families were involved in an incorporated farm. This is considerably less than the 2,145 New Brunswick farm families involved in an unincorporated farm in 2006, down 10.5% from 2,395 families in 2001.

The median total income for New Brunswick farm families on unincorporated farms in 2005 was $49,943, compared to $52,859 received by census families in the province's general population.

Education of New Brunswick farm operators

In 2006, 12.7% of New Brunswick farm operators had university degrees (bachelor level and above) up from 9.8% in 2001. Comparatively, approximately 16% of the province's total labour force fell into this category.

Proportionally more New Brunswick farm operators reported apprenticeship or trades certificates or diplomas than the labour force (12.7% compared with 11.7%). 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 New Brunswick's farm operators do

In the 2006 Census, about 54% of New Brunswick farm operators reported their main occupation as non-agricultural. This increased from 45.7% 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 (70.1% versus 49.6%).

Among the non-agricultural occupations, the top occupation for New Brunswick's male operators were occupations unique to forestry operations, mining, oil and gas extraction and fishing, excluding labourers, while for women operators, clerical occupations were predominantly reported.