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Agricultural operation

A farm, ranch or other agricultural operation producing agricultural products for sale. Also includes: feedlots, greenhouses, mushroom houses and nurseries; farms producing Christmas trees, fur, game, sod, maple syrup or fruit and berries; beekeeping and poultry hatchery operations; operations with alternative livestock (bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, wild boars, etc.) or alternative poultry (ostriches, emus, etc.), when the animal or derived products are intended for sale; backyard gardens if agricultural products are intended for sale; operations involved in boarding horses, riding stables and stables for housing and/or training horses even if no agriculture products are sold. Sales in the past 12 months not required but there must be the intention to sell.

NOTE: For the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories only, the definition also includes operations involved in the following:

  • herding wild animals (such as caribou and muskox)
  • breeding sled dogs
  • horse outfitting and rigging
  • harvesting indigenous plants and berries.

Agricultural operator

Those persons responsible for the management decisions in operating an agricultural operation. Can be owners, tenants or hired managers of the agricultural operation, including those responsible for management decisions pertinent to particular aspects of the farm – planting, harvesting, raising animals, marketing and sales, and making capital purchases and other financial decisions. Not included are accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, crop advisors, herbicide consultants, etc. who make recommendations affecting the agricultural operation but are not ultimately responsible for management decisions.

The terms agricultural operator and operation are used in the census because they are broader in scope than farmer and farm, and better reflect the range of agricultural business from which the Census of Agriculture collects data. For example, the term farm would not usually be associated with operations such as maple sugar bushes, mushroom houses, ranches, or feedlots.

Agricultural products

Include any of the following products intended for sale:

  • crops (hay, field crops, tree fruits or nuts, berries or grapes, vegetables, seed)
  • livestock (cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, wild boars, goats, rabbits, etc.)
  • poultry (hens, chickens, turkeys, chicks, ducks, geese, game birds, ostriches, emus, etc.), including eggs for supplying hatcheries
  • animal products (milk or cream, eggs, wool, furs, meat, etc.)
  • other agricultural products (Christmas trees, greenhouse or nursery products, mushrooms, sod, honey, bees, maple syrup products, etc.).

NOTE: For the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories agricultural products also include wild animals (that have been herded, such as caribou and muskox); sled dogs kept for breeding; horses kept for outfitting and rigging; indigenous plants and berries harvested from the wild.

Buffer zones around water bodies

Areas along natural watercourses left with natural vegetation (unfarmed) and designed to prevent erosion, especially in stream channels that become wider and shallower; preserve wildlife habitat and fish stocks; protect water quality for livestock and people. Also referred to as riparian areas, i.e., land bordering a stream or body of water.


A type of summerfallow; the practice of leaving cultivated land free of vegetation for one growing season and using only herbicides to control weeds.

Cold frames

A simple frame (either plastic or glass) used to protect seedlings/plants from frost; a passive solar heating system (that is, it has no source of heat except sunlight) used to generate plant growth and harden off plants for transplanting in the field.

Composted manure

Animal dung or urine, often mixed with straw or other organic matter, that has decomposed into a stable humus.


A process that decomposes organic matter (manure and/or plant matter) into a stable humus used as a natural fertilizer or soil amendment.

Conversion factors

For the Census of Agriculture, they are the following:

  • 1 acre = 0.404 685 59 hectare
  • 1 hectare = 2.471 054 13 acres
  • 1 arpent = 0.845 acre (for respondents in Quebec who reported land areas in arpents)
  • 1 square foot = 0.092 903 04 square metre
  • 1 square metre = 10.763 91 square feet
  • 1 kilogram = 2.204 622 48 pounds
  • 1 pound = 0.453 592 39 kilogram

Corn for silage

Corn in which the entire plant, including the cob, is chopped up and stored in upright silos, bunker silos or plastic bags, and used for animal feed.


An incorporated business registered with a provincial or federal agency as a legal entity separate from the owner. Family corporation: an incorporated business operation where an individual or members of a family owns the majority of the corporation shares. Non-family corporation: an incorporated business operation where a group of unrelated individuals owns the majority of the corporation shares.

Crop residues

Materials left in a field after the crop has been harvested. They may be baled and removed or be burned, left to decompose or plowed into the soil. These residues include straw from small grains and oilseeds, and corn stalks.

Crop rotation

Changing the type of crop grown on the same land from year to year or periodically to control weeds, insects, disease, and replenish soil nutrients or reduce erosion.

Crop share

An agreement between the land owner and the person operating the land (the share cropper), in which the crop is shared rather than cash rent being paid. Cropping expenses may or may not be shared. The person who does not own the land but operates it should report any areas being crop-shared.

Custom work

Work done somewhere other than on the agricultural operator's operation using his/her equipment in return for money or other payment. Includes custom plowing or combining, trucking, drying grain, cleaning seed, spreading fertilizer, spraying crops, cleaning feedlots, etc.

Established alfalfa or hay

Alfalfa or hay that has grown in the same field for more than one season, i.e. has overwintered at least once.

Farm operating expenses

Any cost associated with producing crops or livestock, except the purchase of land, buildings or equipment. Includes the cost of seed, feed, fuel, fertilizers, etc. Does not include depreciation or capital cost allowance.

Farm population

The definition of the farm population has not remained constant over the years. Changes in this definition since 1931 are summarized below. These changes do affect the comparability of the data among censuses.

In 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006, the farm population included all persons living in rural or urban areas who were members of the households of farm operators who had lived on their farms for any length of time during the 12-month period prior to the census. In 2011 this definition was amended to include farm operators who had not at any point during the year prior to the Census lived on their farm.

Prior to 1991, only one farm operator was reported per farm. Since 1991, up to three farm operators could be reported per farm. Because of this change, farm population counts since 1991 included all members of the households of second and third operators who had lived on their farms for any length of time during the 12 months prior to the census. It should be noted, however, that most second and third operators of farms (usually a spouse or a child) resided in the same household as the first operator and would most likely have been included in the farm population under the previous method of reporting.

In 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971 and 1976, the farm population included all persons, regardless of their occupation, living in dwellings situated on farms located in rural or urban areas.

In 1931 and 1941, the farm population included all persons living on farms located in rural or urban areas. The respondent was required to report the total number of persons living on the farm.

Field crops

Includes hay, alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures; wheat (spring, durum, winter); oats; barley; mixed grains; corn (grain and silage); rye (fall and spring); canola; soybeans; flaxseed; dry field peas; chick peas; lentils; beans (dry white and other beans); forage seed; potatoes; mustard seed; sunflowers; canary seed; ginseng; buckwheat; sugar beets; caraway seed; triticale; and other field crops such as tobacco, hemp, spelt, coriander and other spices, etc.

Fodder crops

Includes alfalfa, barley, clover, corn and sorghum and any other crops in which the whole plant is used to feed cattle, sheep and other ruminants.

Forage seed

Seed from fodder crops grown commercially for seed. Includes timothy, fescue, clover, alfalfa, wheat grass, and turf grass seed.


A chemical used to control, suppress or kill fungi that severely interrupt normal plant growth.

Green manure crops

Young green plants, such as buckwheat and red clover, incorporated into the soil to improve fertility. Usually grown only to improve the soil. Plowing down green crops: when a crop such as winter wheat, fall rye, buckwheat or red clover is planted but "plowed under" before it can be harvested.


A chemical used to control, suppress, or kill plants or severely interrupt their normal growth.

In-field winter grazing or feeding

The practice of keeping grazing livestock in the field (cropland or pastureland) over winter, where they are fed hay or graze on crop residues instead of being confined in paddocks closer to the barns. Cattle, sheep or other grazing livestock are normally moved over the winter to different feeding locations so that their manure can be distributed more widely and the nutrients, especially nitrogen, used to greater advantage for pasture or other crops in the subsequent year. Also referred to as swath grazing and bale grazing.


A substance or mixture of substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel or minimize the effect of any insects that may be present.

Natural land for pasture

Areas used for pasture that have not been cultivated and seeded, or drained, irrigated or fertilized. Includes native pasture/hay (indigenous grass suitable as feed for livestock and game); rangeland (land with natural plant cover, principally native grasses or shrubs valuable for forage); grazeable bush (forest land and bushy areas used for grazing, not land cultivated for crops or with dense forest), etc.

Net farm income

Net income earned by working for oneself (self-employment) as an owner/operator of his/her farm.

Net farm income refers to the profit or loss of the farm operation measured by total farm operating revenues minus total farm operating expenses and capital cost allowance reported on the tax return for the farm. Operating revenues include revenues from the sale of agricultural products and services such as cash advances, rebates, agricultural custom work and machine rental, plus payments from federal, provincial and regional agricultural programs, and insurance proceeds (e.g. income stabilization or crop insurance payments). Operating expenses include business costs in the production of agricultural products plus wages and salaries paid to children and spouses for unincorporated farms. For incorporated farms, operating expenses may include wages and salaries or rent paid to share holders.

Net non-farm self-employment income

Net income earned by working for oneself (self-employment) as an owner/operator of his/her non-farm business.

Refers to net income (gross receipts minus expenses of operation such as wages, rents and depreciation) received during calendar prior to the census from the respondent's non-farm unincorporated business or professional practice. In the case of partnerships, only the respondent's share was reported. Also included is net income from persons babysitting in their own homes, persons providing room and board to non-relatives, self-employed fishers, hunters and trappers, operators of direct distributorships such as those selling and delivering cosmetics, as well as freelance activities of artists, writers, music teachers, hairdressers, dressmakers, etc.

Non-farm population

Refers to all persons not included in the farm population.

Non-workable land

Includes natural pastureland, woodland, wetlands, ponds, bogs, sloughs, etc., barnyards, lanes, etc., and land on which farm buildings are located.

Nutrient management planning

Involves a detailed plan for applying nutrients to a given land base in order to optimize their uptake by crops in the field and minimize the environmental impact and cost. A nutrient is an element or compound in a soil that is essential for a plant's growth. Nutrients applied to a field can include both manure and commercial fertilizer. Soil testing determines the nutrient requirements on land; manure testing determines the level of nutrients in the manure.


Refers to the kind of work a farm operator reports as the main activity of their job in the week (Sunday to Saturday) prior to enumeration on Census day. The questionnaire provides the following instruction: "If this person held more than one job last week, answer for the job at which he/she worked the most hours." As such, farm operators can only report one occupation, even if they have another job in addition to farming. Therefore, not all operators will report farming as their occupation. Also if operators report being "retired" from non-farming occupations but are still operating a farm an occupation is imputed.

All occupations for farm operators are grouped into three occupational groups: "farmer or farm manager"; "other agricultural occupations" such as farm worker, supervisor, greenhouse worker, etc.; and "non-agricultural occupations" such as truck driver, clerk, public servant, etc.

The 2011 Census occupation data are classified according to the National Occupational Classification for Statistics 2011 (NOC-S 2011).

Organic products

Products from farm operations operated according to a set of organic production principles. Certified organic product: an agricultural product that meets organic standards at each production/processing stage and is certified by a recognized certifying agency. Organic certifying agency: a co-operative association or incorporated entity with the authority to give accreditation to organic agricultural operators. Organic certification is based on the Organic Agriculture Standard put out by the Canadian General Standards Board. Organic but not certified: an agricultural commodity produced and processed using organic practices but not officially certified. Operations that opt not to go through the certification process may consider themselves organic but not certified. Transitional: commonly used by certifying agencies to indicate fields in transition to becoming certified organic. It means the operator is actively adopting practices that comply with organic standards. Certification can take up to four years.


Any chemical used for controlling, suppressing or killing insects, weeds or fungi. Includes fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Rotational grazing

A practice allowing forages to recover after each grazing period. Includes alternating two or more pastures at regular intervals or using temporary fences within pastures to prevent overgrazing.

Rural farm population

In 2011, the rural farm population refers to all persons living in rural areas who are members of the households of farm operators whether they lived on or off of their farm.

Prior to 1991, only one farm operator was reported per census farm. Since 1991, up to three farm operators could be reported per census farm. Because of this change, the rural farm population count included all persons living in rural areas on a census farm and in the households of the first, second and third operators; before 1991, the rural farm population count included all persons living in rural areas on a census farm and in the household of the first operator. It should be noted that most of the second and third operators (usually a spouse or a child) of census farms reside in the same household as the first operator and would most likely have been included in the rural farm population under the previous method of reporting.

Prior to the 1981 Census, the rural farm population was defined as all persons living in rural areas in dwellings situated on census farms.


A crop, such as corn and sorghum or other green crops with sufficient moisture, that has been preserved by partial fermentation in a silo, pit, stack, plastic bag or wrap for animal feed. Usually chopped. Often called "hay crop silage" or "haylage" when made from forage crops such as hay or alfalfa. Also referred to as ensilage and baleage.

Sources of income

In order to facilitate the tabulation of income data by source, the components of income have been grouped into these major sources of income:

  • Net farm income - The definition of this term is presented above as a separate entry.
  • Wages and salaries - Income earned by working for a wage, a salary, tips and/or commissions.
  • Non-farm self-employment income - The definition of this term is presented above as a separate entry under "Net non-farm self-employment income".
  • Investment income - This source includes investment income such as dividends, interest and other investment income.
  • Zero income or negative income - Zero income or negative income occurs when the operating expenses plus capital allowance for a self-employed business are equal to (zero) or greater than (negative income) the gross receipts of the business.
  • Other sources of income - This source includes: government sources such as Canada Child Tax benefits, Old Age Security pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement, benefits from Canada or Quebec Pension Plan, benefits from Employment Insurance and other income from government sources; other income such as retirement pensions, superannuation and annuities, and other money income.


Involves keeping normally cultivated land free of vegetation throughout one growing season by cultivating (plowing, discing, etc.) and/or applying chemicals to destroy weeds, insects and soil-borne diseases and allow a buildup of soil moisture reserves for the next crop year. Includes chemfallow, tillage, and/or a combination of chemical and tillage weed control on the same land. Part of the crop rotation system in Western Canada. Rarely found in Eastern Canada.

Summerfallow land

Land on which no crops will be grown during the year but on which weeds will be controlled by cultivation or application of chemicals.

Tame or seeded pasture

Grazeable land that has been improved from its natural state by seeding, draining, irrigating, fertilizing or weed control. Does not include areas of land harvested for hay, silage or seed.


Non-workable areas such as ponds, bogs, marshes and sloughs.

Windbreaks or shelterbelts

Rows of natural or planted trees or hedges along field edges that stop prevailing winds from eroding the soil. Used more frequently in Western Canada where farmland is more susceptible to wind action and where trapping snow for moisture is important.

Winter cover crop

A crop, such as red clover, fall rye, etc., seeded in the fall to protect the soil from water and wind erosion during the winter and from heavy rains and run-off in the spring.


Non-workable land such as woodlots, sugarbushes, tree windbreaks, and bush that is not used for grazing.

Workable land

All arable or cleared lands including area in hay, crops, summerfallow, and tame or seeded pasture land.

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