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Nova Scotia's farm population: changes over a lifetime

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Nova Scotia's farm population continued its steady decline in numbers, dropping by 2.4% since 2001 to 10,250.

In 1931, when the farm population count was compiled for the first time, 177,690 people were living on a farm—34.6% of Nova Scotia's population. By 2006, the farm population accounted for only 1.1% of the province. In less than one lifetime Nova Scotia has moved from 1 in 3 inhabitants living on a farm to 1 in 89. At the same time, Nova Scotia's total population has grown from 512,850 in 1931 to 913,460 in 2006.

Early in the last century, farmers in the province worked on a large number of small farms. In 1931 there were 39,444 farms, with an average of 109 acres per farm. By 2006, the number had decreased to 3,795 farms, with an average of 262 acres per farm. However, the total farm area in Nova Scotia had gone down, from 4.3 million acres in 1931 to 995,943 acres in 2006.

Age of Nova Scotia's farm population

Nova Scotia 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 12.9% of the province's farm population, up from 10.2% in 1971. Those 65 and over in 2006 made up slightly more of the province's general population, at 15.1%.

Language profile of Nova Scotia's farm population

Of Nova Scotia's entire farm population in 2006, 91.2% reported English as their mother tongue, 1.4% reported French, and the remainder (7.4%) reported a mother tongue other than English or French. Of those who reported another language, the largest group was German followed by Dutch. The profile for the province's general population in 2006 differed, with 92.5% reporting English as their mother tongue, 3.9% reporting French, and the remaining 3.6% citing another language. Of the other languages spoken by the province's general population, the Arabic language was the largest group, followed by Mi'kmaq and then German.

Place of birth of Nova Scotia's farm population

The 2006 Census of Population counted 675 immigrants in Nova Scotia's farm population or 6.6% of the total provincial farm population. In 1971, immigrants made up 5.2% of the province's farm population. Conversely, immigrants made up 5.0% of the province's general population in 2006, up from 4.7% in 1971.

The British were a significant proportion (24.0%) of Nova Scotia's immigrant farm population, and they made up 25.8% of immigrants in the province's general population.

About 20% of the province's immigrant farm population was from Belize, compared to less than 1% of immigrants in Nova Scotia's general population. The third most common place of birth for Nova Scotia's immigrant farm population was the Netherlands at 19.5% compared to 4.0% in the province's general population.

Nova Scotia'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, 680 Nova Scotia farm families were involved in an incorporated farm. This is considerably less than the 3,055 farm families in Nova Scotia involved in an unincorporated farm in 2006, down 3.8% from 3,175 families in 2001.

The median total income for farm families in Nova Scotia on unincorporated farms in 2005 was $53,524, compared to $55,417 received by census families in the province's general population.

Education of Nova Scotia farm operators

In 2006, 16.2% of Nova Scotia farm operators had university degrees (bachelor level and above) up from 15.4% in 2001. Comparatively, approximately 21% of the province's total labour force fell into this category.

Proportionally more Nova Scotia farm operators reported apprenticeship or trades certificates or diplomas than the labour force (14.5% compared with 12.9%). 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 Nova Scotia's farm operators do

In the 2006 Census, about 56% of Nova Scotia farm operators reported their main occupation as non-agricultural. This increased from 47.8% since 2001 and suggests that more operators are working off the farm. This also varied by the operator's age group, as 62.2% of the province's operators aged 35 to 54 years reported a non-agricultural main occupation, while this is only true for 54.9% of operators aged 55 to 64. A higher proportion of female operators in the province reported a non-agricultural occupation than males (66.2% versus 52.2%).

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