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Canada's farm population continued its long-term decline between 2001 and 2006 and, like the population as a whole, got older.
The farm population fell 6.2% to 684,260 in 2006 and accounted for only 2.2% of all Canadians, compared with 31.7% in 1931 when it was counted for the first time.
In 1931, 1 in every 3 Canadians lived on a farm; by 2006, this ratio had fallen to 1 out of every 46.
Ontario's farm population of 178,575 was the largest of any province, but it represented only 1.5% of its total population. In contrast, Saskatchewan's farm population accounted for 11.5% of its total population, the largest share.
Like the population as a whole, Canada's farm population is aging. In 2006, seniors aged 65 and older comprised 11.2% of the farm population, compared with 6.1% in 1971. In 2006, seniors accounted for 13.7% of the general population.
The percentage of the farm population that was 65 and older ranged from 7.2% in Quebec to 13.5% in British Columbia.
While immigrants represent a growing share of Canada's general population, the opposite is true for the farm population.
The 2006 Census counted 47,155 immigrants in the farm population. They represented 6.9% of the total farm population, down from 8.5% in 1971. During the same 35-year period, the share of immigrants in the general population rose from 15.3% to 19.8%.
Note to readers
This report, the final release from the 2006 Census of Agriculture, presents data from the Agriculture-Population Linkage Database for 2006.
The linkage combines data from the Census of Agriculture with data from the Census of Population. The result is a rich socioeconomic information base that allows in-depth analysis of Canada's farm population, farm census families and farm operators.
The farm population is defined as all persons living on farms in households with a farm operator.
A farm census family is one in which at least one family member is a farm operator.
A farm operator is a person responsible for the management decisions made in operating a census farm.
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 (from both farm and non-farm sources), net farm income, net non-farm self-employment income, government transfer payments, investment income, retirement pensions and other money income.
An immigrant is a person who is or who has ever been a landed immigrant.
A previous report on data from the Census of Agriculture was released in The Daily on May 16, 2007.
In the general population, the proportion of immigrants born in Asia and the Middle East surpassed the share born in Europe for the first time in 2006.
However, in the farm population, the majority of the immigrant farm population was still European. Almost 40% of these individuals had immigrated before 1966.
In 2006, the top three places of birth were the Netherlands, which accounted for 19.8% of the immigrant farm population; the United Kingdom (13.9%); and the United States (11.3%). This order has not changed from 2001.
Ontario had 35.6% of Canada's immigrant farm population in 2006, the largest share. Within Ontario's immigrant farm population, 30.0% reported the Netherlands as their place of birth, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany.
British Columbia had the second largest share (25.6%). Of its immigrant farm population, 21.1% reported India as their place of birth, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 2006, 70.1% of Canada's farm population reported English as their mother tongue, while 14.3% reported French. The remainder (15.6%) reported a mother tongue other than English or French. Of those who reported another mother tongue, the largest group was German, followed by Dutch.
The farm type with the highest proportion of immigrant operators (26.5%) was fruit and tree nut farms. One-fifth (20.8%) of operators of greenhouse, nursery and floriculture farms were immigrants. The farm type with the lowest proportion of immigrant operators (5.1%) was oilseed and grain farms.
Between 2001 and 2006, the number of farm families living on unincorporated farms declined 9.5% to 175,810. Slightly more than one-quarter of these families were located in Ontario. In 2006, 39,265 farm families were living on incorporated farms.
Farm families are getting smaller, similar to the trend in the general population. In 1971, the average size of a farm family was 4.3 people; by 2006, this had declined to 3.1. During the same period, the average family size in the general population declined from 3.7 to 2.9.
The median total income for farm families on unincorporated farms in 2005 was $56,412, compared with $63,846 received by census families in the general population.
The largest source of income for all farm families on unincorporated farms in 2005 was wages and salaries, at 62.2% of total income received. This was followed by income from government (10.6%), such as pension and child benefits, investment income (7.1%), net farm income (6.3%), and net non-farm self-employment income (5.7%).
In 2006, Canada had 327,055 farm operators, down 5.5% from 2001 and 10.9% from 1971. These operators were on both unincorporated and incorporated farms, and these farms may have had more than one operator.
In 2006, 40.7% of these farm operators were aged 55 and over. In comparison, this age group accounted for 28.8% of self-employed people in the labour force.
Farmers and farm managers had the highest median age of all occupations in the country. The median age of all farm operators was 51.0 years, while the median for the labour force was 41.2 years.
In 2006, 10.0% of farm operators had university degrees, that is, bachelor level and above, up from 8.7% in 2001. This was below the 21.8% for the total labour force. Overall, 12.3% of female operators had a university degree compared with 9.1% of their male counterparts.
Data suggest that more operators are working off the farm. In 2006, 46.1% of farm operators reported their main occupation as non-agricultural, up from 40.5% in 2001. Younger operators, and female operators, were more likely to work off the farm.
Among the non-agricultural occupations, the top occupation for male operators was transportation equipment operators. For women operators, clerical occupations predominated.
Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3438.
The report "Canada's Farm Population: Agriculture-Population Linkage Data for the 2006 Census" is now available in the publication Agriculture-Population Linkage Data for the 2006 Census (95-633-XWE, free), from the Publications module of our website.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Erik Dorff (613-951-2818), Agriculture Division.