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Census of Agriculture counts 57,211 farms in Ontario

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On May 16, 2006, the Census of Agriculture counted 57,211 farms in Ontario, a 4.2% decrease over the past five years. This is slightly lower than the 7.1% decrease at the national level. On Census Day, there were 10,309 fewer farms in Ontario compared to 1996. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces an agricultural product intended for sale.

Ontario accounted for almost one-quarter of Canada’s 229,373 farms in 2006, comparable to its share in 2001. Ontario ranked first in the total number of farms in Canada.

At the same time, Ontario reported 82,410 farm operators, a 3.1% decrease from 2001.

Farm area

Farms in Ontario averaged 233 acres of land in 2006, up from 226 acres five years earlier. The total area of land on farms in Ontario declined 1.5% between 2001 and 2006 to 13.3 million acres in 2006. It has about 8.0% of the total farm area in Canada.

Farmers reported 9.0 million acres of cropland in Ontario in 2006, slightly up from 2001. The province accounts for about 10.2% of all cropland area in the nation. Cropland is the total area in field crops, fruits, vegetables, sod and nursery.

Farm finance

Ontario’s total gross farm receipts were $10.3 billion in 2005, while operating expenses reached $8.8 billion.

Government-funded program payments contributed significantly to gross farm receipts. Farmers themselves contribute to many of these programs by paying premiums much like any insurance plan. According to Statistics Canada data on direct program payments to agriculture producers, in 2000 for Ontario, 4.6% of receipts were from program payments; by 2005 the proportion had grown to 7.9%. The actual value of these payments increased from $422 million to $820 million (in current dollars) during this period.

According to the farm input price index (FIPI) and the farm product price index (FPPI), the inflation over this period on prices farmers had to pay for the inputs they purchased rose more quickly than the inflation on the prices they received for the products they sold —8.0% for inputs versus 3.8% for products sold. At the Canada level, farm input prices rose 8.6% while farm product prices rose only 1.7%.

Overall, improved efficiency, increased program payments, and higher production have helped to keep the ratios between expenses and receipts relatively stable. Operators were spending an average of 86 cents in expenses (excluding depreciation) for every dollar of receipts in 2005, virtually unchanged from what they spent in 2000.

The number of farms with less than $250,000 (at 2005 constant prices) of gross farm receipts declined by 6.4% between censuses and those with $250,000 or more (at 2005 constant prices) increased by 7.5%. There were 10,000 of these larger farms in Ontario in 2006, and while they only represented 17.5% of the farms in the province, they accounted for 78.1% of total provincial gross farm receipts reported for the year 2005.

Organic farms

According to the census there were 3,591 farms with organic production in Ontario on census day, 6.3% of all farms in the province. Nationwide, 6.8% of all farms reported organic production.

For the first time, farmers were able to report on their census forms the status of organic products grown or raised. Of the 3,591 farms reporting organic products in Ontario, 16.5% produced certified organic products, 4.1% were in transition to becoming certified and 83.2% produced organic products but were not certified by a Certifying Agency. Farms can indicate more than one status of organic.

The predominant group of organic products grown in Ontario was hay or field crops. They were reported on 52.2% of the province’s organic farms.

Farm operators

Of Ontario’s 82,410 operators in 2006, 28.6% were women, up from 26.8% five years earlier. Nationally, 27.8% of farm operators in 2006 were women.

In 2005, about 43.1% of farmers worked more than 40 hours a week on their farm operations, down slightly from 44.2% five years earlier. Nationwide, 46.7% of farmers worked more than 40 hours per week on their farms.

Nearly half (49.6%) of all farm operators had an off-farm job or business in 2005, compared to 45.5% in 2000. At the national level, 48.4% of farm operators had an off-farm job or business.

Census a snapshot

In spring 2006, when the data from the 2006 Census of Agriculture were being collected, farmers were facing a spring that had been preceded by one challenge after another: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), avian influenza, circovirus in pigs, falling commodity prices and the rising cost of fertilizers, fuels and other inputs. Since then, some commodity prices have improved, particularly those associated with alternative fuel sources, and even the beleaguered beef industry is showing some recovery after four years of BSE-inflicted hardship. It’s a situation that offers an important reminder that the Census of Agriculture is a snapshot of Canada’s agriculture sector every five years and that the census cannot measure the rapid changes that wax and wane between census years.

Other highlights of Ontario agriculture

  • Ontario has the largest share of corn area (for silage or grain), representing 55.2% of all corn grown across Canada. It had 1.9 million acres of corn, down 18.2%.
  • Winter wheat increased 88.6%, for a total of over 1 million acres in 2006. Ontario ranks first in the country with 60.0% of all winter wheat in Canada.
  • Ginseng increased 59.7% since 2001 to 7,156 acres. This represents 87.0% of all ginseng grown in Canada.
  • In 2006, the province had the largest fruit areas in the country for peach, sour cherry, pear, grape, plum and apple.
  • Apple area in 2006 decreased by 16.8% to 20,169 acres and represents 36.9% of the national total. Its share in 2001 was 38.0% of all apple area in Canada.
  • Ontario ranked first in vegetable area with 155,594 acres, 50.3% of all vegetables grown in Canada. This is down slightly from its share of 51.4% in 2001.
  • Over one-half (52.9%) of Canada’s total greenhouse area was found in Ontario in 2006. The total area under glass increased 28.7% to 126.6 million square feet. Greenhouse vegetables accounted for 69.8 million square feet and flowers for 49.4 million square feet.
  • Ontario had the largest share of the Canadian nursery and sod sectors, with 27,079 acres of nursery and 32,196 acres of sod, as these are directly correlated to urban markets. The province held 46.6% and 43.9% of Canada’s sod and nursery area respectively.
  • With 3.4 million square feet of mushroom area in 2006 (50.8% of total area in Canada), Ontario ranked first, up from 3.0 million square feet in 2001.
  • Pig numbers in the province increased to almost 4 million in 2006, up 14.3% from the previous census. Only Quebec reported more pigs.
  • The province has one-third of all dairy cows in Canada with 329,737 head (33.1%), however the number has dropped 9.3% since 2001.
  • Goats increased 22.2% since 2001 to 76,114 while the number reported in Canada has declined 2.8% overall. The province had 42.8% of all goats raised in the country in 2006.
  • In Ontario, no-till methods were used on 31.2% of the land prepared for seeding in 2006, up from 26.6% in 2001. Conventional tillage fell to 43.9% of land prepared for seeding, from 51.8% five years earlier. Conservation tillage was used on 24.9% of the land prepared for seeding in 2006 up from 21.7% in 2001.
  • In 2006, 3,039 farms in Ontario reported farm-related injuries that required medical attention in the previous 12 months. Injuries were reported on 5.3% of farms in Ontario compared to 6.0% of all farms across Canada.
  • In 2006, 45.9% of operations in the province reported using a computer for farm business, compared to 39.4% in 2001.

Statistics Canada would like to thank the farming community of Ontario for their participation and assistance in the 2006 Census of Agriculture.

For more information on this release, contact Gaye Ward (613-951-3172), Census of Agriculture, or Media Relations (613-951-4636).


Direct program payments to producers represent the amounts paid under various government agricultural programs to agriculture producers. Farmers themselves contribute to many of these programs by paying premiums much like any insurance plan.

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